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Full text of "Melanthe; or, The days of the Medici. A tale of the fifteenth century"

LI E> RARY 

OF THE 

U N IVLRSITY 

or ILLINOIS 

823 

Ml/3tn 
y.2 



MELANTHE; ^ 



THE DAYS OF THE MEDICI. 



^ 2rale of t^t JFtfteenti^ ©entttt^* 



BY 

Mrs. MABERLY, 

author of " emily;" "the love match,'" ic. 



VOL. II. 

LONDON : 
JOHN MITCHELL, 

BOOKSELLER AND PUBLISHER TO THE QUEEN, 
33, OLD BOND STREET. 



MDCCCXLIII. 



LONDON : 

PRINTED BY J. MITCHELL AND CO. (lATE BRETTELl}, 

RUPERT STREET, HATMARKET. 






MELANTHE ; 

OR, 

THE DAYS OF THE MEDICL 

CHAPTER I. 

There are days when every thing in Nature 
seems to wear a smile of peculiar brightness — when 
the air is more sweet, the song of the birds more 
glad, and even the murmur of the stream more 
gentle, as if hushed by the spirit of content and 
joy breathing from earth and heaven. Such 
hours, telling of the mighty influence of Nature, 
and Nature's God, speak directly to the heart. 
None can experience them, and yet remain un- 
moved ; the soul lifts itself humbly to its Divine 
Creator ; the happy are more grateful, and the 
sorrowful are soothed. But what are such hours 
of peace and brightness to him, whose breast is 

VOL. II. B 



% MELANTHE. 

torn by the fierceness of passion, by the galHng 
sense of injury, or the base desire of revenge? 
They are hours of torture, more exquisite in their 
poignancy, than if the victim were writhing at the 
stake. The calm without but mocks the misery 
within ; and each semblance of joy in Nature, 
strikes with a double pang upon the heart tainted 
by envy, or lacerated by remorse. 

Bitter and keen were these thoughts, as they 
filled the dark mind of Luca Pitti, who, with his 
arms strongly drawn, rather than folded across 
his breast, stood upon the heights of Fiesole, and 
looked down upon the city of Florence. The 
delicious fragrance of the mountain air passed un- 
heeded over his fevered brow ; his eyes were strained, 
as if, amidst the white walls of the city of palaces 
which gleamed through the rich glow of sunset, 
ho would have singled out some object; and it 
seemed as though he had succeeded, for a smile 
of bitterness lighted up his countenance, and a 
muttered imprecation burst from his lips, as he 
shook his clenched hand towards the magnificent 
woods which surrounded the villa of the Medici, 
near Fiesole. 



MELANTHE. 8 

The house was just visible from the spot where 
Luca Pitti stood ; and he turned from the sight 
with a look of loathing, and advanced a few steps 
nearer to the brow of the hill ; but, as if his very 
soul sickened at the gladness of the sunlight, he 
hastily drew his cap over his eyes, and strode 
down the road before him. He had not pro- 
ceeded far, when there broke upon the air a 
sound which kindled anew the fury that raged 
within his breast ; and, as though stung by some 
sudden impulse, he leaped from the path he was 
pursuing, and concealed himself in a thicket of 
evergreens, within a few paces of the road. 

Throwing himself upon the ground, with his 
teeth set fast, and his eyes glaring like those of a 
fiend, he looked upon the gay multitude which 
swept past, while at every cry of " Viva ! Viva ! — 
Viva Lorenzo! — Viva Giuliano ! — *Palle, Palle, 
Vivan' i Medici V which rent the air, a groan of 
rage burst from his bosom. 

The people were returning from a tournament, 
given by Lorenzo de' Medici, to commemorate the 

* Palle, Palle I Tlie armorial bearings of the house of Medici 
being three golden balls. 



4 MELANTHE. 

escape of his beloved father, Piero de' Medici, from 
an attempt at assassination, whicli had occurred a 
short time previously. Who had been the insti- 
gator of that attempt still remained a secret ; but 
the young Lorenzo, by his prudence and foresight, 
having averted the danger, disdained to bring to 
light the author of an outrage which all appeared 
unanimously to hold in abhorrence ; and resolving 
to be more upon his guard for the future, had 
dismissed the angry crowd who clamoured for 
revenge, saying mildly, " He knows not how to 
govern, who knows not how to forgive." 

And he did forgive his enemies : — but there was 
one to whose breast forgiveness or gratitude were 
strangers ; and that one was Luca Pitti, who now, 
as he gazed through the leafy screen which con- 
cealed him, felt that he only hated still more 
bitterly the man who had so magnanimously par- 
doned him. How his heart swelled with rage, as 
he listened to the words of the happy citizens, who, 
enchanted with the amusement of the day, were 
loud in their praises of the magnificence by which 
the acts of their patrons were distinguished, but 
particularly those of the young Lorenzo, whose 



MELANTHE. O 

liberality was unbounded. Each word was a 
dagger to the breast of the envious Luca Pitti ; 
and as the joyous crowd passed on, with the gay 
song and the merry laugh, he gnashed his teeth 
with rage. 

The whole population of Florence had flocked 
to the tilting ground, and now the road from the 
villa was covered with a moving mass of light- 
hearted beings. For a few moments, the crowd was 
stationary ; and then a cry of joy, which rent the 
heavens, broke from the multitude, and the heart 
of Luca Pitti well nigh burst with fury, on be- 
holding the object of his hatred within a few paces 
of the place of his concealment. 

Lorenzo, and his young brother, Giuliano, were 
returning to the city, surrounded by a number of 
their friends, and superbly mounted and equipped. 
The two brothers slackened their pace as they 
perceived that the people stood to allow them to 
pass ; and doffing their plumed and jewelled caps, 
returned the greetings of their fellow citizens with 
a grace and kindness which went straight to every 
heart. " Viva ! Viva ! Vivan i Medici T — " Viva 
Lorenzo, Viva il buon Piero !" burst from every 
side. 



b MELANTHE. 

" E il bel Giuliano,'"' cried some women, as 
Giuliano, who was renowned for his beauty, 
passed close to them, and rewarded their admi- 
ration by a smile, which still further enhanced the 
superb expression of his countenance. And the 
gallant train moved on, the plumes of the riders 
waved in the distance, the cheers of the loving and 
delighted crowd grew more faint, and Luca Pitti 
found himself alone — maddened by the secret con- 
sciousness of baffled treachery, and burning for 
revenge ! 



CHAPTER II. 

The power and popularity of the Medici had 
long been a subject of jealousy to many of the most 
important families of Florence. More than one 
attempt had been made, in order to free the city 
from the domination of Cosmo de' Medici ; yet 
notwithstanding that he had suffered banishment, 
from the jealousy of his fellow citizens, the talents 
and virtues of this great man so far prevailed over 
the factious envy of the Florentine nobles, that he 
was restored to the post he had so worthily filled, 
and at his death transmitted the government of the 
republic of Florence to his son, Piero. 

It might have been supposed that gratitude 
towards the memory of one, who had, by his Avise 
and virtuous administration, placed their city at 
the head of the Italian republics, would have 
prompted the zeal of the Florentines towards a 
more generous support of the family to which they 



8 MELANTHE. 

owed SO much ; but the littleness of the mind of 
man has from time immemorial interposed between 
him and the furtherance of his best interests. In- 
stead of a cordial support and co-operation with 
Piero, many of the nobles secretly united against 
him, and endeavoured to undermine his authority. 

One of the great sources of the power of the 
Medici was their enormous wealth. Cosmo, fully 
aware of this advantage, had lost no opportunity 
of improving it. He was the richest citizen in 
the world ; and not only did he engage in com- 
mercial transactions to an extent almost incredible, 
but he also contrived, by large and well arranged 
loans, to propitiate most of the reigning sovereigns 
of Europe. But it was not only at a distance that 
Cosmo had employed his riches — most of the chief 
families in Florence were indebted to him for sums 
which they imagined would never be required of 
them ; and it was not until the death of Cosmo they 
were reminded that what they had hitherto consi- 
dered a gift, was in reality merely a loan. 

Prompted by the treacherous advice of a false 
friend, Dietisalvo Neroni, Piero de' Medici had no 
sooner succeeded to the government of Florence, 



IIELANTHE. y 

than lie announced his intention of calling in the 
various sums which had been lent by his father, 
giving as a reason that his commercial relations 
were upon too extended a scale. Although no one 
could arraign the justice of this act, it was imme- 
diately productive of the pernicious effects which 
the insidious Neroni had anticipated. The Floren- 
tine nobles found it very inconvenient to repay 
what they had borrowed ; and although they did 
not dare openly to proclaim their dissatisfaction, 
a spirit of rebellion spread darkly amongst them, 
and a whisper arose as to why one family of 
citizens should thus elevate themselves above the 
rest, and rule with sovereign sway in a city where 
all ought to be equals ? The question might have 
been easily answered — because to the family whose 
grandeur had become a subject of the meanest 
envy, was the city of Florence indebted for the 
high place she now enjoyed in the estimation of 
other states. 

Commerce, arts, and literature — the refinements 
of luxury, the spirit of chivalry, and the noble 
feeling of self-sacrifice to the public welfare — all had 
B 5 



10 MELANTHE. 

sprung into life at the bidding of the Medici ; all 
that had slumbered during the darkness of past 
ages, awoke at the generous call of those Citizen 
Princes, whose country was their glory and their 
pride, and whose name, while the world endures, 
will be the glory and the pride of their country. 

Although there were not wanting many who 
could fully appreciate the merits of the Medici, still 
a formidable body of malcontents existed in the 
city, chiefly amongst those whose elevated situation 
rendered them aspirants to the power they longed 
to wrest from the hands which grasped it. The 
secret conferences of the disaffected had been many 
and deep, although hitherto unavailing, for the 
power of Cosmo had been too firmly fixed, being 
based upon the confidence and affection of the 
people : but as soon as Piero, by the unwise act of 
calling in his debts, had excited the murmurs of 
many who had formerly been most loud in their 
declarations of friendship, the hopes of the conspi- 
rators began to rise, and a more definitive plan of 
operation than had hitherto been attempted, was 
agreed upon — this was, the assassination of the 



MFLANTHE. 11 

unsuspecting Piero, whilst yet his sons Lorenzo 
and Giuliano were too young to undertake the 
cares of government. 

All was arranged with apparent promise of suc- 
cess. The bad health of Piero offered peculiar 
advantacres for the execution of their treacherous 
designs; for, being unable to mount his horse, he 
was generally carried in a chair by his servants. 
After due deliberation they fixed upon the moment 
when, returning from his country seat, Piero should 
enter the city from the northern side. As the time 
approached, the soldiers of the Marquis de Ferrara, 
who had been stationed in the neighbourhood, by 
the orders of the conspirators, advanced so as to 
hem in the whole party, when the life of the 
destined victim was providentially preserved by the 
very person whose tender years had been deemed a 
security for his non-interference. 

The young Lorenzo, ever watchful of a parent 

he adored, had ridden forward in advance of the 

scanty train which accompanied his father ; and 

meeting some soldiers whom he knew to belong to 

• a foreign state, his acute mind instantly penetrated 



12 MELANTHE. 

the device with wliich they endeavoured to lull him 
into security. Feigning to enter into conversation 
with them, he carelessly informed them that his 
father was following at a short distance ; and at the 
same time contrived to detach one of his followers 
who, unperceived by the soldiers, dived into the 
forest by the way side, and hastening to Piero, led 
him in safety by another and more circuitous path 
to the city ; while Lorenzo, without exhibiting the 
smallest sign of fear, passed unmolested through 
the hostile troops, nor paused, nor spoke, until he 
stood by the side of his father in the Council hall, 
surrounded by the officers and magistrates, whom 
lie had hastily summoned. 

Then, with an undaunted air, did he proclaim 
the treason which had been meditated, and slowly 
glancing round the assembly, inquired what should 
be the fate of those whose treacherous hearts had 
instigated such an attempt ? With one voice a 
sentence of immediate death was pronounced ; and 
such was the terror which the firmness of Lorenzo 
inspired, that many of the conspirators threw them- 
selves on their knees before the heroic youth. 



MELAXTHE. J 3 

whose presence of mind had saved the life of his 
parent, and, confessing their treacherous intention, 
implored for mercy. 

It was then that the gentle and generous nature 
of Lorenzo suggested the answer, Avhich fell like a 
double condemnation upon the hearts of the still 
concealed traitors. It was then that the dark and 
narrow soul of Luca Pitti first burned with a 
personal hatred towards the noble youth before 
whom he stood, and that he conceived the project 
of a still deeper vengeance ; for at the very moment 
that his fawning tongue proclaimed his grief for 
the danger of his friend, and abhorrence of the 
meditated crime, the calm eye of the young Lorenzo 
had read him to the heart, and the conscious traitor 
felt that, though pardoned, he was discovered, 
and despised. 



CHAPTER III. 

When Luca Pitti, recovering from the abstrac- 
tion into which the reflections consequent upon the 
appearance of the Medici, returning as it were in 
triumph from the tournament, had led him, again 
bent his steps towards the city of Florence, the 
moon shed her calm light upon all around. The 
sky was cloudless, and the stillness of the air, only 
broken by the gay songs of the happy people, who 
yet lingered in the open streets, and by the side 
of the Arno, unwilling to close a day, which had 
been to them one of unbounded joy and excite- 
ment. With slow and measured steps, Luca Pitti 
continued to advance, his head almost bowed upon 
his breast, and apparently insensible to all around ; 
yet not a sound, not a word escaped him ; while at 
every demonstration of joy which reached him, he 
gnashed his teeth in bitterness of spirit ; for the ac- 
clamations which proclaimed the triumph of his rivals 



MELANTHE. 15 

over their enemies, were as if his own condemnation 
had been uttered by the whole people. His cow ard 
heart sunk within him, when he remembered the 
signal contempt with which public execration had 
been implied, rather than expressed, towards him, 
upon the rumour, that he had been one of the 
secret conspirators whom the generosity of Lorenzo 
had pardoned. The recollection now seemed to 
lend wings to his steps, and he hurried forward 
until, having reached a temporary door in an angle 
of an unfinished building, he drew forth a key, and 
in a moment afterwards stood within the walls of 
a palace of such magnificent proportions, that it ap- 
peared better fitted for the abode of a mighty 
sovereign, than the dwelling of a simple citizen. 

Now secure from intrusion, the baffled and de- 
graded traitor gave himself up to all the bitterness 
of rage and despair, as he contemplated the ruin 
and disappointment which was the immediate con- 
sequence of his crime. It is difficult to imagine 
that the glorious sentiment of a noble ambition can 
ever give birth to the black design of treachery ; 
but even ambition, and the pride of distinction, 
when carried to excess, become criminal. 



16 



MELANTHE. 



This was exemplified in the character and con- 
duct of Luca Pitti. Equal in birth to the Medici, 
his first impulse had been to gain, as they had done, 
the estimation of his fellow citizens, by a laudable 
endeavour to promote the welfare and splendour 
of their republic ; until yielding, by degrees, to the 
intoxication of public approval, and the accession 
of weight and consequence which followed, he be- 
gan to entertain views of a less honourable nature, 
nursing in secret the hope of being one day still 
more highly distinguished, than even the family 
which he had endeavoured to emulate. 

At length, so firmly did the idea of his own 
importance fix itself in his mind, that all demon- 
stration of public approval bestowed upon others 
was distorted into an intended insult to himself. 

His feelings towards the family of the Medici in 
particular, assumed the character of a settled and 
implacable hatred. Far from any open declaration 
of hostility, he continued for some time apparently 
on the best terms with them ; and having begun to 
carry into effect his plan of erecting a palace so 
superb, that every other building would shrink into 
insignificance beside it, he did not hesitate to avail 



1 



MELANTHE. 17 

himself of the generosity for which the Medici 
Avere so distinguished, and gladly accepted their 
offers of assistance towards the completion of his 
magnificent design, his own fortune, although con- 
siderable, being found inadequate to defray the 
expenses of so great an undertaking* 

The very marbles, of which the walls were com- 
posed, were brought with infinite care and expense 
from the quarries of the Medici ; and when the 
building began to rise in its splendour, and the 
grandeur of its proportions filled the mind with 
visions of its future glory, the spirit of generosity 
so laudably awakened by the noble acts of Cosmo, 
and his son Piero de** Medici, seemed as it were with 
one common thrill to pervade every Florentinebosom. 

The completion of the Palace of Luca Pitti 
became a point of national honour, each citizen 
vying with the other as to who should contribute 
most largely towards it. It may appear almost 
incredible that the undertaking of a private indi- 
vidual should be thus honoured by public interest ; 
but in an age when the encouragement of the arts 
and the revival of literature were the avowed objects 



18 



MELANTHE. 



of the pride of nations ; — when the sovereign*, to 
whom all the South of Europe looked up as to a 
model, chose for his armorial bearings an open 
book and a sculptor's chisel ; when the same sove- 
reign, after the disastrous treaty of Lodi, refrained 
from further act of hostility, upon receiving from 
Cosmo de' Medici a finely copied manuscript of 
Livy; — it is scarcely surprising, that a state like 
the Florentine, which had been called by the refined 
taste and talent of a family of its citizens from the 
comparative obscurity into which, with the rest of 
Italy, it had fallen, should hold in high estimation 
the followers of that newly awakened spirit to which 
they already owed so much. 

The more freedom in a people, the more each 
citizen is interested in any great undertaking which 
may contribute to the honour of his country, and 
the more firmly the hereditary glory that attaches 
to public virtue or exploits is perpetuated. The 
subject of a tyrant, only sees in a successful 
general, an actor who has played the first part in a 
brilliant spectacle ; but the free citizen beholds in 

* Alphonzo, King of Naples, surnamed the Magnanimous. 



MELANTHE. 19 

him his defender, his saviour, and the author of his 
own glory. The feeling of sympathy and admiration 
fires every breast, and a name rendered illustrious 
by a noble action, becomes, in a free people, a 
national property. 

Imbued as were the Florentines with this spirit, 
the grandeur which marked the conception of Luca 
Pitti in the design of his palace, at once captivated 
their imagination. Each citizen appeared to feel 
that his own honour was at stake ; and when it was 
ascertained that even the large fortune of Luca 
Pitti must be totally insufficient to carry out the 
scheme of magnificence which his fancy had traced, 
every heart was opened, every hand was raised to 
help him to the completion of his great undertaking. 
From all sides presents of immense value poured 
in ; the citizens declared that their treasures were 
better deposited in what they termed a monument 
of the greatness of their nation, than in their own 
dwellings ; and as soon as the state of the building 
permitted, Luca Pitti beheld, as if by magic, his 
walls hung with rare paintings, his galleries lined 
with statues, and his rooms filled with the richest 
and most beautiful furniture. 



20 MELANTHE. 

Instead of the pure feeling of gratitude, which 
should have filled his heart, upon such a demonstra- 
tion of public and private favour, the aspiring soul 
of Luca Pitti urged him to climb still higher. 
The fruit of these ambitious sentiments had been 
the plot against the life of Piero, so signally 
defeated by the prudence and ability of his son 
Lorenzo. The result of the conspiracy had shown 
to Luca Pitti how futile had been the hope in 
which he had indulged ; but he was unprepared 
for the galling and signal vengeance which was 
inflicted by his fellow citizens upon the miscreant 
who, in betraying his former friend, had, they felt, 
been equally perfidious towards themselves. 

Although the treachery of Luca Pitti had been 
as it were suppressed by the magnanimity of the 
Medici, yet he stood among the people a marked 
man. Eager to show their detestation of his crime, 
but a few hours after its discovery had elapsed, 
when crowds of workmen were seen hurrying to 
and from his palace, bearing with them, to the 
houses of their respective owners, the several pre- 
cious gifts they had a little while before solicited 
him to accept. Some few endeavoured to conceal 



MELANTHE. 21 

their real meaning, by a pretence of wishing to 
borrow the things for a short time ; others, by 
appearing to have only considered them as a loan ; 
but the bulk of the citizens boldly demanded their 
property. The word traitor was openly pronounced ; 
and Luca Pitti — the conscious traitor, the accused, 
the denounced — shrunk from the contemptuous 
look his guilty heart traced upon every face ; 
and, like a wounded tiger, unable to spring upon 
his foe, lay writhing in impotent fury, neglected 
and alone. 

Now, as he stood within the walls of his palace, 
the reality of his situation struck with redoubled 
force upon his mind. The bright moonlight 
streamed in at the windows, and as he walked 
through the rooms, the magnificence of which had 
been the theme of every tongue, and which he 
hoped would have transmitted his name with 
honour and renown to succeeding generations, he 
gnashed his teeth with rage. From every side the 
contempt of his fellow citizens seemed to pour 
upon him afresh — for each spot was connected in 
his mind with some kind word, or generous act, 
which had hallowed his undertaking. Where, now, 



»^ MELANTHE. 

were all the treasures which a noble heart would 
have twice valued, as a tribute to worth from the 
hand of friendship? Gone — all gone;— snatched 
hurriedly from beneath his roof, as though con- 
tamination lurked within the walls: and Luca 
Pitti, stung to the soul by this bitter proof of the 
utter contempt in which he was held, hurried on 
through the empty chambers, until he reached the 
foot of the grand staircase. 

There he suddenly paused. Was it possible 
that there still existed hearts too generous to smite 
a fallen foe ? The conviction struck deeply on the 
goaded spirit of him against whom all mankind 
appeared to have made a common league; and 
Luca Pitti, the stern — the hard-hearted, and the 
treacherous, struggled for a moment against this 
one feeling of human softness, then leaned his 
head upon the balustrade — and wept. Recovering 
himself, he looked again. It was as he had at 
first perceived. There, in the same places which 
they had occupied during the short period of his 
grandeur, stood the priceless antique statues — the 
gift of the Medici. Of all the treasures which had 
been lavished upon him, these alone now remained 



MELANTHE. 23 

to Luca Pitti. Although of inestimable value, 
these alone had not been reclaimed ; and the hearts 
from which he would have drawn the life blood, 
were the only ones which had softened towards 
him in his disgrace. For a moment, the evil 
passions of the traitor were lulled, and he glanced 
rapidly back to former days, when the ties of 
friendship had bound him to those who were now 
the objects of his hatred. 

He thought of the noble Cosmo — of Piero, and 
his gallant and accomplished sons ; he looked upon 
their gifts — gifts made in the full confidence of 
mutual faith and affection ; and he fancied that 
the sculptured brows gleamed sadly upon him, 
through the dim light which filled the hall. But 
then again, as he gazed around, and beheld, in 
the devastation of his palace, the ruin of his hopes, 
his evil passions once more took the ascendant. 
He raised himself from the drooping posture he 
had assumed — threw back his head as if to gain 
courage for some step that he meditated, when 
suddenly the midnight chime from the neighbouring 
convent struck his ear. His breath came short 
and quick ; — he grasped the balustrade with a 



24 MELANTHE. 

trembling hand, and, as the strokes fell one by one 
upon the solemn stillness of the night, it seemed 
as though the sound had frozen him to stone. 
The bell ceased, and Luca Pitti breathed again. 
That sound appeared to have wrought some sudden 
change within him. He looked stealthily round, 
as if in fear of discovery — advanced a few steps — 
then paused, and listened ; a fiendish laugh from 
his lips told how keenly he felt that the Pitti 
palace now numbered no other being within its 
walls ; and hurriedly advancing to a door before 
him, he threw it open. The shadow which fell 
upon the marble floor, showed that a human form 
stood in the entrance, but the face of the stranger 
was muffled in his cloak, 

" Montesecco ?'' said Luca Pitti, inquiringly. 

" I am here,"" replied a low voice. 

" Follow me,"" said Luca Pitti, hurriedly ; anc 
taking the hand of the stranger, as though to dra^ 
him across the threshold, he secured the door by 
which they had entered, and, without speaking, 
led the way to a more remote chamber in the 
palace. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The room to which Luca Pitti conducted his 
guest appeared to have been lately inhabited : some 
logs of wood were burning on the hearth ; and light- 
ing a lamp, the owner of the apartment placed it on 
a table, upon which several cups and wine flagons 
still remained. Filling a large goblet, Luca Pitti 
hastily swallowed the contents, and by a gesture 
invited his companion to do the same ; but Mon- 
tesecco, dechning the offer, seated himself by the 
table, fixed his eyes upon the agitated countenance 
of his host, and appeared determined to await in 
silence the communication which the summons he 
had received entitled him to expect. The demon 
of irresolution seemed, however, to have suddenly 
seized upon one whose character had formerly been 
most decided. The nervous agitation of Luca 
Pitti increased every moment ; and as Montesecco 
continued to rivet his gaze upon him, exhibited 

VOL. II. c 



%b MELANTHE. 

itself painfully, in the downcast look, which seemed 
to shun the eyes which he felt would read him to 
the soul. 

The noble form and face of the young man, 
before whom one more than twice his age now 
quailed, were of that high and intellectual character 
which bespoke a nature equally difficult to deceive, 
as to persuade into any measure verging upon dis- 
honour. The singular beauty of the features upon 
which Luca Pitti more than once cast a furtive 
glance ere he dared to speak, was the least attrac- 
tion of Montesecco. Firmness and nobility of 
mind were in every line, while the softness of his 
fine dark eyes, and the gentle smile, which subdued 
the haughty curve of his short upper lip, gave a 
touching expression of melancholy to a countenance 
which seemed to belong to one who ought not to 
have suffered. That he had both felt and suffered, 
was apparent to any who could have followed the 
rapid changes of his face. For some minutes 
Luca Pitti had gazed upon it in silence, till at 
length he hurriedly spoke. 

" Where did my messenger reach you ?'"* were his 
first words. 



MELANTHK. 27 

" At Rome," replied Montesecco. 

" Ah ! it is then as I heard," exclaimed Luca 
Pitti. 

" You have taken service with his Holiness the 
Pope ? " 

" I have," replied Montesecco ; " for three 
years I have bound myself to serve, as may seem 
most fitting for the interest of the Holy See. But," 
he exclaimed more eagerly, " was it for this you 
summoned me in such haste ?" 

" For what did you suppose I required your 
presence ?" asked his companion calmly, as he fixed 
a searching look upon the anxious countenance of 
Montesecco. 

" I know not," replied the latter ; " yet I had 
hoped you were about to fulfil the promise - - ." 

" Nay, my son," interposed Luca Pitti, 
" matters of more weight " 

" There are none of more weight," interrupted 
the young man, " none at least to me. You pro- 
mised to reveal all. You promised, that if I would 
be patient until this year, you would tell me the secret 
of my birth — you would give me a name — a country 
— a home ! Think what it is to wander desolate on 



28 MELANTHE. 

the earth ; to feel that, among the countless multi- 
tudes that people it, there is not one being with 
whom you may claim kindred — one hand that you 
may grasp and say, * this is of my blood' — one 
hearth by which, in the hour of sorrow, you may 
stand, and feel that you have a right to its shelter 
and its love. Think of this, and pity, if not justice, 
will plead in my behalf/' 

Luca Pitti looked upon the impassioned face 
of the speaker, and smiled. The earnestness of 
his manner convinced him that the anxiety of 
Montesecco was sincere, and through that anxiety 
how much might there not be gained ? 

" We will talk of this hereafter," he said ; *•' for 
the present, I have other views ; be patient." 

'* Patient !" cried Montesecco wildly. " A sk the 
Saints for patience, but ask it not from me. I am 
but human; a man, wronged, betrayed, and tempted 
by the beguiling art with which you have led me 
on for years to hope ; and now, once more, my hope 
is wrecked, and you ask me to be patient — ay — 
patient like the fawning spaniel, patient beneath a 
grief that stings to madness." 

" Montesecco," said Luca Pitti calmly, as the 



MELANTHE. 29 

young man buried his face in his hands, " you 
have been to me as a son — say, have I not fulfilled 
a father's part towards you ? Yes," he continued, 
taking the hand which Montesecco extended to- 
wards him at these words, "your wish has been 
a law to me. It was by your own choice that the 
fortune I destined for you was spent in the equip- 
ment of troops ; the life of a Condottiere was your 
own choice, and by it you have been enabled to 
distinguish yourself as few of your years have ever 
had an opportunity of doing. Whose name stands 
higher for deeds of fame than that of Giovanni 
Montesecco? And where is the sovereign, who 
would not gladly purchase, at any price, the service 
of your gallant band ? Do you not perceive the 
position this renown may entitle you to occupy ? 
The fate of cities — of provinces — nay, of kingdoms 
may be at your control ; and," added the tempter, 
as he saw that the excitement of his hearer was 
gradually giving way to a profound attention, 
" why should not a kingdom be its price, and its 
reward ?''' 

" How ?^ said Montesecco, " a kingdom ?'"* 

" It is but a word," replied Luca Pitti, care 



D\) MELANTHE. 

lessly. " I said a kingdom ; yet the name is no- 
thing. Think you that he who now governs 
Florence has less power, because his brow is un- 
crowned ? And yet no tyrant ever reigned with 
more despotic sway than does the citizen King 
under whom we writhe — while forced to smile, and 
to obey." 

" I have been little in Florence,*" replied Mon- 
tesecco ; " but I thought the Medici were beloved 
as well as respected." 

" There are others yet more beloved," said 
Luca Pitti, in a low voice ; " what would be more 
easy than to place them where they should be? 
The people would rejoice — and we should triumph ;" 
and Luca Pitti grasped the hand of the young 
soldier with transport. 

" I understand you,'' said Montesecco, calmly ; 
" the destruction of one family would secure the 
aggrandizement of another." 

" Not the destruction. Let one old and use- 
less branch be removed ; the tree would still bud 
forth and flourish." 

" Ay," replied Montesecco bitterly, " when 
nurtured by the refreshing dews of the dungeon 



MELANTHE. 31 

damp, or the burning sun of some distant clime. 
Piero dead — his young sons banished, or impri- 
soned, and Luca Pitti governs Florence. 'Tis 
well — and nobly planned." 

" And why not P'' urged Luca Pitti, hastily, 
affecting not to notice the stinging contempt of the 
manner of Montesecco. " It only needs one of those 
daring deeds which has made the name of ]Mon- 
tesecco famous. Your troops "" 

" Are soldiers — not assassins,'' exclaimed Mon- 
tesecco fiercely, as the blood crimsoned his noble 
brow, *^ and Montesecco is their chief."" 

" Nay — calm yourself, dear Giovanni," said 
Luca Pitti, soothingly ; " I merely meant that, 
should such a day occur, our position would be 
far other than it is now ; the bar which now exists 
between you and the discovery of the secret of 
your birth would be removed, and " 

Montesecco started to his feet. " Tempt me no 
further," he cried ; " and may the Holy Saints 
forgive me that I have hearkened to your words ! 
I know," he continued, and his voice slightly 
faltered, " how much I owe you. Command my 



22 MELANTHE. 

life— but remember, the honour of Montesecco is 
his all;'" and as the recollection of his desolate 
position rushed to his mind, the young soldier bent 
his head, to conceal the trembling tear beneath the 
long silken lashes that shaded his cheek. 

The spirit and integrity which the bearing of 
Montesecco displayed had little effect upon the 
heart of his tempter ; but the deep emotion which 
he laboured to conceal from the eye of Luca Pitti 
convinced the latter that his victim was still in his 
power. Unwilling, by further irritation, to lose an 
advantage he felt he possessed, he hastened to 
change the conversation, by inquiring what news 
the Condottiere had brought from Rome. 

" There was not much when I left it. The 
jubilee still continues; and the popularity of the 
new Pope increases." 

" You know,"" said Luca Pitti, inquiringly, 
" that Lorenzo de' Medici has been chosen to bear 
the greetings of the Florentines to His Holiness 
upon his accession ?^ 

" I had heard it whispered," replied Montesecco ; 
" but such is the terror which the memory of 



MFLANTHE. 33 

Paul II. has left in the minds of the Roman 
people, that few dare to canvass openly any mea- 
sure relating to his Holiness. The prisons of Rome 
yet groan with the crowds of men of science and 
learning, with whom, under pretence of being 
dangerous to the state, Paul had filled them.'' 

" And my old friend, Roderigo Borgia, how 
does he bear himself towards the new Pontiff? 
The Papal crown would have better graced the 
proud brow of the Borgia," said Luca Pitti. 

" His Eminence is of the same opinion," replied 
Montesecco, smiling ; " he but bides his time — 
meanwhile his state overshadows all ; he alone, of 
the Cardinals, has availed himself of the permis- 
sion of Paul II. to wear in public the tiara and 
purple robe; and when he rides forth, I would 
you could behold the blaze of jewels he displays, 
while the scarlet housings of his horse sweep the 
ground ; and he waves his hand to the people 
more with the air of a conquerer in triumph, than 
an humble follower of the church." 

" Ha ! well do I recognise the pride of the Borgia 
in this. None ever failed who played so bold a game. 
c 5 



S4t MELANTHE. 

He will be Pope one day — and then — but," said 
Luca Pitti, interrupting himself, as though afraid 
to trust his hearer too far, " what of the crusade ?" 

" It is yet undecided," said Montesecco, sadly ; 
" would that it were once determined. Italy will 
see the fierce Mahomet sweep her fairest provinces 
from her bosom, ere she will hush her petty griefs, 
and unite against the common enemy ; every month 
brings news of fresh inroads vipon her power — 
would that I had the means " 

" Which you have not,"" broke in Luca Pitti, 
sharply. " Leave Rome to settle her disputes 
with the Sultan. It is now many years since she 
calmly saw Constantinople destroyed, and with its 
fall ended all her sympathy with her Eastern 
brethren. Since then what have been the crusades ? 
a mere mummery. No, my dear Montesecco, 
think not of the crusade — we have matters of 
importance nearer home. And now, when do you 
propose returning to Rome ?" 

" This very hour," replied the young man ; " I 
little thought, when I hurried hither on your 
summons, it was only to hear a proposal of " 



MELANTHE. 35 

'i Of what?" said Luca Pitti, anxiously, as 
Montesecco hesitated to conclude the sentence he 
had begun. 

" Of murder^'' was the reply, uttered in a 
solemn tone. 

" No, no — not of murder ! surely, you mistook 
my meaning — it was but on public grounds that 

I suggested ; but we will speak no more of it. 

To-night, you say, you leave Florence.'' 

" My horses wait without the gates — we part 
this very hour," said Montesecco, with a bitterness 
which did not escape his companion. 

" We part, though not for long. T, too, must 
journey towards Rome. But first, let me give 
you what you must deliver with your own hands 
— these letters to the Pope ; this to the Cardinal 
Borgia ; and now farewell. The dawn is breaking, 
it were well you were not seen in Florence." 

" And this is all.^" said Montesecco, as he 
marked the haste with which his companion would 
have dismissed him, while a lingering hope still 
remained in his own bosom that some allusion to 
his history might have marked their conference. 

" All !" replied Luca Pitti, sternly. 



S6 MELANTHE. 

" Then farewell," said the young soldier, sadly, 
as he folded his cloak round him. 

« For the present,'' answered Luca Pitti. " We 
shall meet at Rome.'' 



CHAPTEK V. 

Bitter were the feelings of Montesecco as he 
pursued his solitary journey towards Rome. He 
had quitted it full of hope, and he returned with a 
feeling of degradation ; for it was degradation, to 
a mind like his, to have listened, even unwillingly, 
to a proposal of a dishonourable nature. Disap- 
pointed in the hope which had filled his breast on 
receiving the summons of one whom he had 
hitherto obeyed as a parent, the ideas of Monte- 
secco became clouded and melancholy, from the 
sudden revulsion of feeling. He exaggerated to 
himself the discomforts of his position, and called 
to mind a variety of imaginary slights he had 
received. He even considered whether it would 
not be advisable, since Luca Pitti persevered in 
the obstinate silence he had so long preserved 
with regard to the birth and parentage of one 

I 



k 



38 MELANTHE. 

whom he had cherished from infancy, to relieve 
him entirely from a charge which he must now 
consider irksome, and by obtaining a dismissal 
from the Pope, remain free to follow a profession 
of arms in some distant land, and there to seek a 
country and a home. 

By degrees, however, these feelings of sorrow 
and disappointment gave way to a lighter mood. 
A new life opened before him. What might not 
the next three years produce in his favour ? For 
that period he had placed himself and his adherents 
at the disposal of the Pope. This was a mode of 
obtaining military employment sanctioned by the 
custom of the day. The constant warfare in which 
Italy and the South of Europe was engaged, was 
usually carried on through the means of the Con- 
dottieri, sometimes men of rank and station, though 
occasionally adventurers ambitious of renown, who 
hired themselves and their troops to the various 
petty states. It was considered highly dishonour- 
able, while the period of such an engagement 
remained unexpired, either to slacken in zeal for 
the service of the state upon which the Condottiere 
and his troops depended, or to attempt to abridge 



MELANTHE. 39 

the period of that service without sufficient justifi- 
cation. 

In making an engagement with the Pope, Monte- 
secco had been chiefly influenced by the expectation 
of a crusade against the Turks, in which he might 
have added fresh laurels to those he had already 
won ; but in this hope he was destined to be disap- 
pointed. The subject of a crusade was one which 
at Rome was constantly revived, and as constantly 
abandoned ; and since the signal failure of the 
gallant attempt of Pius 11., who, having organized 
every thing for a sacred war, quitted Rome with 
all the pomp of military and religious zeal, no 
further attempt at curbing the insolence of Maho- 
met had been made. 

From the period of the fall of Constantinople, 
the Sultan had gradually advanced towards Italy, 
and now threatened several of the nearest provinces 
with the fate which had befallen the unhappy 
Greeks. Nothing showed the tameness of spirit of 
the Italian princes more than the apathy with 
which they regarded the progress of the Turks ; 
but Italy, divided by petty tyrants, was no longer 
a nation. Her princes had lost their pride, — her 



40 MELANTHE. 

magistrates their power, — her warriors their cou- 
rage, and her citizens their patriotism ; and yielding 
to the growing spirit of luxury, and the gratification 
of revenge for the petty insults of their nearest 
neighbours, the Italian states wasted the strength 
which, if combined, might still have placed them 
at the head of nations, and calmly looked on while 
the galleys of the Sultan swept their shores. 

In a few years, Italy had lost most of her colonies 
in the isles of Greece. She allowed the conquest 
of the shores of Dalmatia,Epirus,and Peleponnesus, 
which, in the hands of the Christians, secured the 
empire of the Adriatic ; but, in those of the Turks, 
exposed Italy to the invasions of a people hating 
her laws, religion, and manners. 

It was this position of affairs which, a few years 
before the appearance of Montesecco as a candidate 
for military renown, had urged the high-spirited 
Pius II. to undertake a crusade. He quitted 
Rome with a train of unequalled splendour, fol- 
lowed by ten cardinals, sixty bishops, and a crowd 
of princes and ambassadors. For a time the 
enthusiasm of the country was roused. All the 
states through which he passed vied witli each 



MELANTHE. 41 

other in doing him honour. Perugia received him 
as a king ! Sienna recalled all her banished nobility 
at his request ; and at Florence his litter was borne 
by the principal nobles, who gave fetes of a most 
magnificent description during his stay in their 
city. But all was of no avail. Ere the Pope could 
reach Ancona, his plans were frustrated by the 
internal dissensions which had arisen in his army ; 
a great portion of his troops deserted by the way ; 
and Pius, perceiving that all prospect of success 
against the Infidels was lost, and trembling for the 
sovereignty of Rome, resolved to employ the re- 
mainder of his force in quelling the disturbances at 
home, and in assisting Ferdinand of Naples in his 
endeavours to keep the French and the house of 
Anjou at a distance. 

Thus ended the only real attempt at a crusade ; 
and though the reigning Pope still held out a hope, 
and had even commanded a jubilee to be celebrated, 
in order to secure funds for the enterprise, yet the 
eagerness with which Montesecco had bound him- 
self to the service of the Pontiff, only tended to 
make the disappointment more keen, when he 
perceived that no real intention of the kind existed 



42 MELANTHE, 

on the part of his new master. The sanguine 
spirit of the young Condottiere constantly exposed 
him to similar mortifications. Ever ready to ima- 
gine that whatever he most desired, was about to 
be realized, the constant revulsion of feeling which 
he was doomed to experience had begun to act 
upon his character, producing a morbid sensation 
of distrust, foreign to the fearless and chivalrous 
frankness of his nature. The recent conduct of 
Luca Pitti had not tended to diminish this impres- 
sion, and it needed all the support of the vigorous 
intellect with which Montesecco had been endowed, 
to overcome the dejection which the disappointment 
of his dearest hopes had occasioned. 

During the first days of his journey he had 
suffered keenly ; but as he drew near to Rome, and 
remembered the gallant troop whose perils and glory 
he had so often shared, he felt that he was not 
desolate upon the earth, and his spirits rose on his 
approach to the city, in which, as the depend- 
ants of the Pope, his soldiers were now quartered. 

The scene also became more enlivening. The 
jubilee had attracted from various parts of Italy, 
pilgrims of every age and calling, hastening to con- 



MELANTHE. 43 

tribute their mite to the exigencies of the Holy 
See, and the defence of their country and religion ; 
for such were the grounds upon which this tax was 
levied ; while the promise of an indulgence to all 
who should personally deposit their offerings at 
Rome, in the coffers of the Medici, who were 
then the bankers of the Pope, induced many thou- 
sands to make the journey, rather than forego the 
advantage held out to them. 

As Montesecco approached the termination of 
his journey, he was not surprised to find the roads 
crowded with travellers. Most of them were of 
the middle and lower class ; but amongst the more 
prominent of the wayfarers with whom he had 
interchanged courtesies, was one who had irresisti- 
bly attracted his attention. This was a man 
between sixty and seventy years of age, at least if 
years could be calculated by the extreme whiteness 
of his hair, and a beard which fell nearly to his 
waist. His figure was tall and erect ; but, as the 
folds of the large cloak in which he was enveloped 
sometimes waved aside, Montesecco was much 
amused by perceiving that the stirrups of the stran- 
ger were so shortened as to bring his feet almost 



44 MELANTHE. 

into the position which should have been occupied 
by his knees. 

Montesecco, who was accounted the best horse- 
man of his day, could scarcely reconcile this eastern 
mode of riding with the simple habit of the Italian 
citizen, which the rest of the stranger's dress de- 
noted ; but the superiority of the steed upon which 
he was mounted, as well as the whole of his equip- 
ment, and that of his companion, convinced the 
young Condottiere that he who rode by his side was 
as thoroughly versed in the requisite qualities of a 
horse, as expert in the management of the animal. 

Having fully satisfied himself upon this point, 
Montesecco turned his attention to the only fol- 
lower of the mysterious traveller, who for two days 
had ridden in his company without interchanging 
more than a slight inclination of the head with any 
of those whose journey compelled them to keep the 
same road. Nothing could afford a greater con- 
trast than did the stranger to his only companion, 
who was a young and lively Greek boy, dressed 
out in all the picturesque finery of his nation, and 
in the wildest ecstasy of delight at every occurrence 
which marked the progress of the party. 



MELANTHE. 45 

Mounted upon a small and fiery horse, the boy 
never ceased urging the animal to prance about in 
every direction. Sometimes he would gallop on 
a-head, returning at the same pace, merely to 
have the mischievous pleasure of scattering to the 
right and left several devout pilgrims, who appear- 
ed somewhat unused to riding ; at others, he would 
dive into the thickets which skirted the road, and 
suddenly re-appear in a direction where he was least 
expected, laughing with childish glee at the sur- 
prise his abrupt movements excited, and ever and 
anon riding close to the old man, and casting a 
wistful look towards his grave countenance. 

Montesecco remarked that the features of the 
traveller occasionally relaxed almost to a smile, and 
assumed an expression of melancholy tenderness, as 
he gazed upon the glowing face of the young 
Greek, and witnessed his gambols among the sedate 
pilgrims with whom chance had brought him in 
contact ; but, to the surprise of the Condottiere, he 
never heard either address the other. There was 
evidently kindness, attention, and even love on 
both sides, but words were wanting. In silence 
they had joined the party, and in silence they con- 



46 MELANTHE. 

tinued to ride forward. When this observation 
first occurred to Montesecco, he deemed that it 
must be the offspring of his own fancy ; yet as the 
day advanced the impression became comfirmed, 
till, at length, so forcible was the attraction which 
it created, that to separate from the mysterious 
travellers became impossible. 

The old man evidently observed that the atten- 
tion of Montesecco was rivetted upon him, but no 
sign, either of pleasure or dissatisfaction, escaped 
him. He continued to ride on without speaking. 
The curiosity of Montesecco rose to a height that 
was actually painful. In vain did he endeavour 
to include the stranger in the conversation with 
which he and the other travellers beguiled the 
way ; a look or a bow was all he could extort. 
Once, when the roughness of the road had nearly 
caused the animal on which the young Greek was 
mounted, to throw its rider, Montesecco, perceiving 
the terror of the old man, darted to his side, in the 
hope that the hurry of the moment might betray 
the travellers into breaking the silence they had so 
long preserved, but he was disappointed, A look 
of reproof or caution, was all that the danger of 



MELANTHE. 47 

the boy extorted from his companion ; and thus it 
continued ; and whether on the lonely road, or the 
crowded inn, at which the travellers were obliged 
to share in common the few comforts it afforded, 
these two, differing so widely in all other respects, 
passed on in unbroken silence, until Montesecco 
persuaded himself that they were, doubtless, bound 
by a holy vow, or condemned to penance for some 
fearful sin. 

The strong sense of the Condottiere could not 
altogether preserve him free from the gross super- 
stition which, in that age, too often took the place 
of religion ; and such was the excitement which the 
constant scrutiny of the actions of the travellers 
had caused in his mind, that he at last ceased to 
regard them as Pilgrims, and believing them under 
the ban of the Holy Church, resolved to hold no 
further communication with them . 

In this resolution, however, he was doomed to 
disappointment. His horse had on the previous 
day met with a slight accident ; but from continued 
travelling, the lameness, which had at first been 
trifling, increased so materially, that he determined, 
instead of endeavouring to reach the city that night, 



48 MELANTHE. 

to rest until morning at the cottage of the first 
peasant he should happen to meet. About to 
separate from his strange companions, Montesecco 
tried to shake off the sensation of curiosity which 
had so forcibly taken possession of his mind ; but 
in proportion as he attempted to avoid the strangers, 
so did it appear that they had become interested in 
him. The bright eyes of the boy were constantly 
fixed upon his own, and the grave look of the old 
man seemed also more frequently turned towards 
the young Condottiere. Still the same silence as 
before ; and Montesecco, whose feeling of irritation 
at this unusual conduct increased every moment, 
actually shuddered as the eyes of the strangers met 
his own, and more than once he crossed himself as 
the dread of the Malocchio rushed to his mind. 
He, therefore, resolved to rid himself of their com- 
pany as soon as possible, and urging on his tired 
and injured steed in a manner no way calculated to 
restore its soundness of limb, he soon left the party 
in the rear; and having entered a wood, to his 
great delight he discovered a small house, at which 
he determined to ask shelter for the night. 

The house only seemed to contain one wretched! 



MELANTHE. 49 

individual, an old man, whose appearance denoted 
extreme poverty, and who gladly accepted tlie 
offer with which Montesecco accompanied the de- 
mand for a night's lodging. A small shed at the 
back of the house was shown him as a stable ; and 
having, early in the morning, sent forward to the 
city the men who had served him as an escort, 
Montesecco now fulfilled towards his favourite 
horse all those cares and duties which every soldier 
knows how to perform. This done, he returned to 
the house, when, to his vexation, he found that he 
was not to be the only guest. There, in the spot 
where he had left him, sat the old man to whom 
the cottage belonged, and by his side, and with the 
same imperturbable expression of gravity depicted 
on his countenance, Montesecco beheld his fellow- 
traveller, the stranger with the white beard ; while 
the Greek boy stood at a little distance patting 
the horses, and peering round with his bright black 
eyes, as if in hopes of discovering some new mode 
of amusement. 

Montesecco, uttering a hasty imprecation, re- 
solved immediately to proceed towards Rome. His 
curiosity respecting the strangers, was rapidly 

VOL. II. B 



50 MELAKTHE. 

changing to aversion ; and irritated at the idea of 
passing the night by compulsion in their com- 
pany, he returned to the stable. Here his better 
feelings prevailed. His gallant but way-worn steed 
was unfit for farther travel, and as he marked the 
weary limbs of the noble animal, Montesecco expe- 
rienced a sensation of self contempt as he dwelt 
upon the puerile suspicions which he had allowed 
to creep into his breast. With an effort at over- 
coming the absurd prejudice he had conceived 
against his fellow-travellers, he bent his steps to- 
wards the house, but finding that it boasted only 
of one room, in which they had already installed 
themselves, he declined disturbing them ; and in- 
tending to pursue his journey with the first dawn, 
he once more turned to the stable, and without 
taking off the light armour which he wore, threw 
himself upon the straw with which one end of the 
hut was filled, and was soon fast asleep. 



CHAPTER VI. 

How long the slumbers of Montesecco lasted 
was unknown, even to himself. Tired with his long 
journey, he slept soundly at first, until disturbed 
by a disagreeable sensation, which, without awaken- 
ing him, destroyed the comfort of his repose. 
Oppressed as if by a painful dream, he lay uneasily 
on his couch of straw, but again and again the 
same sensation returned, and he moved restlessly 
from side to side, as though striving with some 
unseen power. Still he did not awake, until at 
length, yielding as it were to a sudden and irre- 
sistible impulse, he started from 'his sleep, and 
raising himself upon his couch, gazed around him. 
And there, in the dim moonlight, ere his senses had 
found their tone, his excited imagination painted 
innumerable phantoms ; but all bore the same form 
— the form of his mysterious fellow-travellers. In 
every glimmer of the moon's pale light through the 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF ILUNOB 



52 MELANTHE. 

crevices of the shed, he fancied that he saw the old 
man with his long white beard, first horribly dis- 
tinct, then fading away to a sliadow, and now re- 
appearing in a form of such magnitude that it 
seemed to fill up the whole room. 

Montesecco turned away, but only to meet the 
shining eyes of the Greek boy, which appeared to 
flash upon him with superhuman brightness from 
every corner. And the brave Condottiere, who 
would with unslirinking courage have met death 
upon the field, shuddered as the phantoms of 
his own imagination flitted before him. But it is 
not a phantom, or if so, it is one of flesh and blood, 
that now creeps to the side of the soldier. A move- 
ment almost habitual caused Montesecco to grasp 
his sword as he distinctly felt the pressure of a 
hand upon his breast. With a sudden start he rose 
to his feet, and there, in the fitful light, gleamed 
upwards to his own the same bright eyes which had 
haunted him while he slept. 

It was not then a dream — the Greek boy was 
kneeling at his feet, and JMontesecco, as he bent 
towards him, perceived tliat he was in tears. Yielding 
to the mute entreaty which seemed to urge him to 



I 



MELANTHE. 



53 



follow, he allowed the boy to lead him from the 
hut ; but not seeing any object outside that justified 
his suspicions of danger, he hesitated to advance. 
Still his companion seemed unsatisfied, and with 
tears and sobs made signs to him to follow. 

'^ What would you have of me ?" said Montesecco. 
" Speak, and I will obey.'' 

The answer of the Greek was the sudden pres- 
sure of his fingers on the lips of the Condottiere; 
then throwing himself on his knees before him, 
with uplifted hands he seemed to implore his help, 
and rising instantly, he retreated towards the house, 
beckoning Montesecco to follow, while, with his 
finger on his lips, he evidently wished to impose on 
his supporter the silence he himself practised. From 
the earnestness of the boy's manner, Montesecco 
judged that something had happened ; and, no 
longer hesitating, followed the cautious steps of the 
young Greek. 

He soon gained the entrance to the house. The 

outside door was open, but that leading to the room 

where the travellers had been lodged, was closed 

and fastened, and as Montesecco passed he heard 

he sound of angry voices within. Leading him 



54 MELAKTHE. 

up a few steps, the boy suddenly seized the hand 
of the Condottiere, and pressing it fervently to his 
lips, pointed downwards, at the same time crouching 
on his hands and knees. Montesecco understood 
the appeal, and following his example, he found 
that a sliding panel in the wall, which had been only 
partially closed, gave to view the whole of the 
iniquitous scene enacting in the room below. 

Stretched upon the floor was the venerable form 
of the traveller who had excited so much of the 
attention of the Condottiere. Tightly bound and 
gagged, he lay at the mercy of two ferocious look- 
ing ruffians, who, with the old man to whom the 
house belonged, were the other occupants of the 
chamber. The truth instantly flashed upon the 
mind of Montesecco. The old man was in league 
with the robbers, and the house was one of those 
with which the Campagna abounded, and into 
which unwary travellers were decoyed to be plun- 
dered or to die, as might best suit the purposes of 
the fierce brigands who infested the neighbourhood 
of Rome. 

A gloomy silence had taken the place of the late 
angry discussion, and Montesecco bent his ear to 



I 



MELANTHE. 55 

the opening of the panel, in order to catch the first 
sentence that might be uttered. It was the old 
man who first spoke. 

" I tell thee, Carlo,'' he said to the eldest of the 
ruffians, *' it is of no use to take his life. I know 
who he is — I saw him pass this way before ; and I 
know he is rich ; — he will pay for his ransom." 

" Ay, and send the Condottiere with his troops 
to scour the Campagna, and drive us all, like sheep, 
to the mountains," replied the robber, with a 
hoarse laugh. 

" No, that will never do, friend Domenico," 
observed the second of the brigands ; " we must 
either put him out of the way at once, or thou must 
send him to keep company with some of thy 
guests below ;" and he pointed to the floor of 
the room. 

" What ! in the dungeon, and alive .'^" replied the 
old man with a shudder. " Now the saints preserve 
me, but I should never sleep without thinking I 
heard him rattling the bones of all those that are 
there already. No, I never could bear the terror 
of it — and with so little of the spoil too for my 
share," he added in a whining tone. 



56 MELANTHE. 

" By Saint Peter !" exclaimed the fierce Carlo, 

." if thou darest to grumble, this hand shall send 

thee below to keep company with the skeletons 

thou so lovest ;" and he shook his clenched hand at 

the trembling wretch before him. 

" Nay, good Carlo — thou art merry,*" said the 
old man, with his teeth chattering, and his knees 
shaking. 

" But what of the gold ? how much ? "" 

" What is that to thee, thou old scarecrow,'^ in- 
terrupted Carlo with a growl. " Thou hast more 
than thou needest I think for thy vile body, and all 
the gold in the Pope's coffers would not save a soul 
like thine one hour of purgatory. 

" Here, Anselmo," he continued, addressing his 
companion, " put that in thy doublet;" and he threw 
him a small bag which he had taken from the vest 
of the stranger. " And now be quick — decide — 
what is to be done with this lump of clay ?" and he 
spurned with his foot the prostrate body of the 
captive. " Decide, for I must be gone. The Pil- 
grims swarm to the city — there may be some worth 
liffhteninff of their alms." 

" Dispatch him at once," replied Anselmo ; " the 



MELANTHE. 57 

day is breaking — we should have been miles hence 
ere now." 

" No, no,'' cried the old man, " slay him not ; 
or if thou dost," he added, looking round fearfully, 
" thou must slay the boy too. He sleeps now ; but 
he may wake, and bring ruin upon us." 

" He shall not wake," said Carlo calmly," where 
is he r 

" Above, in the little chamber," answered the 
old man ; " but touch him not ; his ransom will 
make us rich for ever," and the old man rubbed his 
hands as he spoke. 

" Cease thy chattering," cried Anselmo, " what 
dost thou know of ransom ? one stroke of this will 
be the best," and he laid his hands on his poniard 
as he spoke. 

" I do know," cried the old man ; " the prisoner is 
rich as he is great. It is Hassan the merchant," he 
continued, in a lower tone ; " and the Pope himself 
would ransom him, sooner than harm should befal 
him." 

" What," cried Carlo, " Hassan, the rich mer- 
chant of Smyrna ? Now out upon thee, thou old 
dotard, to think that name is aught but his death 
D 5 



58 MELANTHE. 

warrant. Were he to escape, and tell his tale, not 
a brigand within a hundred miles of Rome would 
be alive at this hour to-morrow ;"" and rising he 
advanced with fury towards the prisoner. 

Another moment, and all was lost ; but ere he 
could draw his dagger, Montesecco sprung from his 
hiding place. 

" Ha ! betrayed I villain, take that !"* shouted 
Carlo; and, as he spoke, he plunged his dagger 
in the heart of the old man, who fell dead at his 
feet. 

The next instant, the sword of Montesecco was 
at the breast of the robber. Fierce and terrible was 
the struggle that ensued. Throwing away his 
sword, the brave Condottiere pressed upon the 
brigand so closely that ere he could draw the knife 
from his belt, a deep wound in the side had been 
inflicted by the short poniard which Montesecco 
carried, while the armour of the latter protected 
him from the furious blows which Carlo aimed at 
his breast. Wounded, but not disabled, the bri- 
gand continued the fight, attempting to retreat 
towards the door, a chance of escape which the 
superior science of the Condottiere as constantly 



MELANTHE. 59 

prevented. Step by step, and incli by inch, the 
combatants disputed the ground, when an accident 
had nearly deprived Montesecco of his hfe. 

The young Greek, despite the prohibition of the 
Condottiere, had followed him when he made his 
sudden entry among the robbers ; and unable to 
cope with them by strength, had employed a stra- 
tagem, the success of which proved the sagacity of 
the device. Springing from his concealment, while 
the second brigand, with his back turned to the 
secret panel, was listening to the suggestions of 
Carlo, the boy had with the speed of light con- 
trived to seize from behind, both the arms of the 
robber ; and entwining them with his own, pinioned 
him as securely as though he had been bound with 
cords. In vain did the brigand try to shake him 
off, the young Greek clung to him with the tenacity 
of a wild cat seizing on its prey. The quick eye 
of Montesecco marked the struggle, and his heart 
trembled for the result. The robber had the 
advantage in point of strength, but the agility of 
the boy was surprising, as, scrambling and clinging, 
he endeavoured, and successfully, to prevent the 
second brigand from coming to the rescue of his 



60 



MELAMTHE. 



companion. Charmed with the heroic bravery of 
the young Greek, which, notwithstanding his own 
peril, Montesecco plainly perceived, he continued 
to cheer and encourage him by his voice. His own 
antagonist now began to waver, when a heavy fall 
close to his side announced that the strength of one 
of the other combatants had yielded. For an 
instant Montesecco turned his head, but in that 
instant, while a well-directed blow from his hand 
disabled the arm of the brigand ready to plunge a 
dagger to the heart of the poor boy who lay strug- 
gling beneath him, the brave Condottiere felt the 
point of a weapon upon his own shoulder. Mad- 
dened by the pain, he returned with double fury to 
the charge, and in a few moments the fierce Carlo 
lay dead beside his companion, who, unable to 
defend himself after the wound inflicted by Mon- 
tesecco, had been stabbed by the boy, whose life 
had so nearly paid the forfeit of his rash but noble 
courage. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Relieved from his bonds, the first movement of 
Hassan was to throw himself into the arms of his 
brave defender ; and Montesecco forgot all his for- 
mer doubts and suspicions as he listened to the 
thanks of the captive whom he had rescued. But 
if his mind was relieved as to the mystery which 
had hitherto attended his fellow-traveller, his heart 
was deeply moved as he looked upon the frantic 
joy of the young Greek, at the safety of his com- 
panion. Again and again, he wound his arms 
round the venerable form of Hassan, stroked his 
long beard, looked at his hands, and kissed and 
wept over them with passionate fondness, as he 
pressed them to his heart. Still he did not speak ; 
and it was only on Montesecco addressing some 
words of praise to him, that the secret was revealed. 
The boy was dumb. 

" How long," asked Montesecco, who was inex- 



bJ3 MELANTHE. 

pressibly touched by the discovery, " has this been 
the case ?*" 

" From liis birth," replied Hassan. " Happily, 
his parents died ere they could have known the 
sorrow that awaited them. Poor Gennaro,*" he 
continued, as he fondly stroked the long black 
curls of the young Greek. 

" He is not then your son ?" inquired Montesecco. 

" I have no child,"" replied Hassan with a heavy 
sigh, as he thought of the cruel destiny of the 
only daughter of his love. " But fate has so or- 
dained that two orphans, both Greeks, call me 
father." 

" And yet," observed Montesecco with some hesi- 
tation, " I should not say that Greece had been 
the country of your birth." 

" No," replied Hassan sadly, " nor yet Italy, 
though Italy is now my home. Years have 
elapsed since I was driven from my own land, and 
then I bore in my arms the infant of one who 
had saved my life. I fled to Naples, where many 
Greeks had found shelter. Demetrius of Ypsara 
came there with his bride, the beautiful Chezm^ ; 
it was there Gennaro was born. For a while we 



MELAKTHE. 63 

were happy and at peace ; but a pestilence arose, 
and once again I fled from the home where my 
best friends lay dead, bringing with me Melanthe 
the daughter of my adoption, and poor Gennaro, 
the only child of those two bright and beauteous 
ones, whom I had seen laid side by side in their 
grave. God is merciful ! I was spared to watch 
over the fatherless. I came to Rome — I have toiled 
for them. Heaven befriended me ; I am rich. I 
owe my life to their parents, and Hassan is not 
ungrateful."''' 

The old man paused in deep emotion. It seemed 
that unrestrained communication was foreign to 
his nature, so great was the effort he appeared to 
make in thus revealing his history to Montesecco ; 
but the heart of Hassan was full of affection, 
though the habits of his nation, which long years 
of separation from it could not break through, had 
inured him to reserve and silence. 

" Heaven will reward you," said Montesecco ; 
then calling to mind the absurd suspicions with 
which his head had been filled during the journey, 
he gaily recounted them to Hassan. " Why did 



64 MELANTHE. 

you not speak to me ?" he asked, " when you must 
have seen my anxiety that you should do so ?"" 

" My son,'' replied Hassan gravely, " it is my 
rule never to speak unless it is necessary ; and if 
I have prospered in the world, it is chiefly by the 
observance of this rule. You asked me no direct 
question, therefore why should I have trusted a 
stranger ? but the heart that has risked its blood, 
and the hand that has struck in our defence, are 
no longer those of the stranger, therefore Hassan 
has told thee all, and now bids thee follow him to 
his home ; henceforth shall Montesecco be unto 
him as a son. Let me bind up thy wound, then 
will we depart." 

To this proposal Montesecco gladly acceded. 
With skill and tenderness the old man bandaged 
the shoulder of the Condottiere so as to enable him 
to proceed upon his journey ; and Gennaro lead- 
ing his horse from the stable, they turned from the 
scene of bloodshed, and once more took the road to 
Rome. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

There was a garden on the banks of the Tiber. 
Bright and lovely was that garden, as on the deso- 
late bank of the rapid river it stood alone in its 
beauty ; for the shore on either side was unmarked, 
save by some few straggling trees and bushes that 
hung over the low huts of the poor fishermen. It 
was the garden of Hassan the Turk ; or, as he 
was called at Rome, Hassan the merchant ; havi^.g, 
the better to disguise all traces of his former state, 
announced on his arrival that commerce was his 
profession, and Smyrna his birth-place. The truth 
of these assertions had never been questioned ; and 
Hassan steadily pursuing his course, had risen 
gradually until he arrived at a state of affluence ; 
while his cautious conduct in keeping aloof from 
the fierce feuds which the state of party in Rome 
constantly engendered, caused him to be looked 
upon with equal respect by all factions, and he 



66 MELANTHE. 

was not un frequently chosen as umpire in their 
quarrels. 

Unlike the palaces of the nobles, which were 
little better than fortifications, the house of Hassan 
was open on all sides. Situated in the midst of a 
beautiful garden, it bore more the appearance of 
an Eastern pavilion, than the dwelling of a Roman 
merchant ; but it was upon the apartments of his 
adopted daughter, Melanthe, and the garden des- 
tined for her recreation, that Hassan had expended 
his chief care ; and often had he longed for the 
hour, when, released from the routine of convent 
education, she should quit the good sisters to whom 
he had entrusted her on his arrival at Rome, and 
come to share with Gennaro the pleasures of his 
house and home. 

That happy day had arrived; and though 
Hassan still delayed his arrival beyond the ex- 
pected hour, his child anxiously awaited him. 
Tired with watching, Melanthe had walked out 
towards the river. She was not alone ; Clarice, 
the beautiful daughter of Jacopo Orsini, stood by 
her side. They had been friends from childhood. 
Educated together in the same convent — then the 



MELANTHE. 67 

only mode of education for the daughters of the 
rich and noble — they had shared the same tasks, 
enjoyed the same amusements, and happy in each 
other^s love, had never known a want or a care. 
Now, on the first day of their liberty, their only 
sorrow had been endured. They felt that they 
were about to be separated. But though endeared 
by affection, until they seemed to have their very 
being in common, the two girls did not differ more 
in appearance than they did in character and 
disposition. The soft glances of Clarice had, in 
their gentle languor, an expression of touching 
helplessness ; while the dark and thoughtful eyes 
of Melanthe seemed to scan the thoughts oC.all 
who met their mild but searching look. Above 
the middle size, the exquisite proportions of her 
figure gave grace and dignity to every movement, 
while the very twining of the pliant form of Clarice, 
as shaking back her glossy chesnut curls, she 
looked up in the face of Melanthe, spoke of timi- 
dity and dependance, and the beautiful Greek 
gazed tenderly down upon the half childish form 
and face of a companion somewhat younger than 



68 MELANTHE. 

herself, and strove to comfort her under their 
approaching separation. 

" Ah !" said Clarice, with a sigh, " it is very 
well for you — here in this lovely garden with your 
painting or your embroidery, or those musty parch- 
ments over which you delight to pore, you may be 
very happy." 

" And why should you not be so ?"" asked 
Melanthe ; " you who have a father to love and 
cherish ?" 

" Oh yes !"" replied Clarice, " of course I do love 
him ; but you know he never speaks to me ; or if 
he does, it is of things I cannot understand."" 

" Then why not try to understand them, dear 
Clarice ?''"' said her friend ? — " why not try to have 
ideas in unison with those around you ? — It would 
make you happier, and be better for all parties."' 

" Oh ! you can do every thing, but I never 
should succeed,*" said Clarice, pettishly. " My 
father never speaks of any thing but the state of 
parties in Rome, or the grandeur of our house, till 
I am sick to death of the glories of the Orsini.'"* 

" You would not despise a lineage and a name, 



MELAKTHE. 69 

could you feel tlie misery of being without one,'' 
said Melanthe, sadly. 

" Dear Melanthe,'' cried Clarice, embracing her, 
" I did not mean to make you unhappy — why do 
you always grieve over that one subject ? — you 
know Hassan has declared that he is certain of 
your father's safety, for that it has been ascertained 
that he quitted Constantinople unhurt, and came 
to Italy : one day, his abode will be discovered. 
Till then be patient." 

" I will try to be so," said Melanthe, with a 
melancholy smile, " and you will promise me the 
same." 

" Oh, as to me, the Madonna grant me patience. 
Shut up all day in that gloomy palace of my 
father's, how I envy you this lovely garden, and 
the gay spirits of Gennaro all day long to keep 
you company." * 

" But you will have guests, Clarice. You forget 
the Prince — your father has summoned you a week 
sooner than you expected, to do the honours of his 
house to the young Lorenzo de' Medici, who comes 
to congratulate his Holiness." 

" How I wish he had staid at Florence,'' 



70 MELANTHE. 

exclaimed Clarice. " If it was only for the way I 
have been tormented about him, I am resolved to 
hate him." 

" A wise resolution,"" said Melanthe smiling ; 
" take care that the contrary effect does not ensue 
from so much determination."" 

" Nonsense,"" said Clarice blushing ; " but really 
I do grieve at having been obliged to leave our 
convent in such a hurry. I could not even finish 
the piece of tapestry I had promised the good 
Sisters for a covering for the Madonna"'s footstool."" 

" You can finish it at your leisure," said Me- 
lanthe. " If that is your only omission, you will 
have little to confess." 

" Nay, I have more than that,"''' said Clarice, 
shaking her pretty head mysteriously ; " but tell 
me, Melanthe, do you think, now we have left the 
convent, we shall still have no one to confess to, 
except Padre Anselmo ? I cannot tell why, but I 
never could kneel by that man's side without a 
shudder. I always felt as if the Malocchio was 
upon me, when I met his bright black eyes peeping 
out from beneath his cowl ! "" and Clarice, who was 
very superstitious, crossed herself devoutly, which 



MELANTHE. 71 

prevented her remarking the confusion which the 
name of the priest had spread over the countenance 
of Melanthe. The crimson blush which had for 
an instant burned upon her cheek turned to a 
deadly paleness ; and averting her head, she would 
have sought for some pretext for absenting herself 
from the side of her companion, when fortunately 
the sound of horses'* feet was heard rapidly ap- 
proaching. 

" It is Hassan," exclaimed Melanthe. 
" Yes, and Gennaro," cried Clarice. " Farewell, 
dear IMelanthe, I will leave you to your happiness ; 
but do not fail to be with me to-morrow, in time to 
receive our guests."" 

" I will not fail," answered Melanthe ; and Cla- 
rice, quitting the garden by a side gate, proceeded 
to the Orsini Palace, while Melanthe turned to the 
house to welcome her adopted father and her play- 
fellow Gennaro. AVith trembling horror she listened 
to the account which Hassan detailed, of the danger 
from which they had been rescued by the bravery 
of Montesecco ; and the blush of delight with which 
the young Condottiere received the fervent thanks 
of the beautiful being who stood before him, showed 



72 



MELANTHE. 



that he was already reconciled to the prospect of 
the life of inactivity which at first he had dreaded, 
and which he knew must be his portion ere the 
effects of the dangerous wound he had received 
could pass away. 



CHAPTER IX. 

And now it seemed as though all Rome kept 
holiday. The Pope had declared his intention of 
receiving, in full state, the congratulations which the 
republic of Florence conveyed through its young 
chief, Lorenzo de' Medici, and it soon became known 
in the city, that it was the desire of his Holiness that 
every honour and respect should be paid to him, 
and the Florentine nobles who accompanied him. 

Early in the morning, when the first interview 
between the Pope and Lorenzo was to take place, 
every street and window was crowded with specta- 
tors, anxious to behold the young man whose fame 
had already preceded him. Perhaps also, the good 
citizens of Rome were not sorry to have the variety 
of a peaceable procession, instead of the constant 
clang of armed men paraded through their streets, 
and domesticated as it were in the palaces of their 
nobles, a measure rendered necessary by the tur- 
bulent state of the times, where might was right, 

VOL. II. E 



74 MELANTHE. 

and every excess permitted or pardoned to those 
who could pay for their crimes or enforce their 
demands. 

The friendly disposition of the newly elected 
Pontiff towards the republic of Florence was hailed 
as an omen of approaching tranquillity. To fol- 
low the example of the Pope and Cardinals, was 
always deemed a measure of policy by the Roman 
citizens ; and even in those who did not approve, 
subserviency was too convenient to be cast aside 
for opinion. Bright and gladly rose the sun upon 
the city of Rome, and before long every spot lead- 
ing from the palace of the Pope was crowded. 
Banners floated from the walls and roofs of the 
houses; the balconies were hung with tapestry and 
rich velvets, bands of music were stationed at inter- 
vals, and every eye was strained to catch the first 
glimpse of the citizen Prince, as he issued from 
the Orsini palace, where he had been welcomed as 
the son of an old and valued friend, by the proud- 
est of Rome's ancient nobles, Jacopo Orsini. 

But the ponderous gates still rested on their 
hinges; and, tired with waiting, the multitude began 
to murmur at the delay, when a movement was 



MELANTHE. 75 

observed in the opposite direction, and soon the 
rich liveries of the attendants of a Cardinal an- 
nounced the approach of one of that body ; and 
Roderigo Borgia, the most powerful, the most 
splendid, and the most daring amongst those whose 
dominion was absolute and whose licence unbridled, 
rode into the street which led to the palace of the 
Orsini. As a special mark of favour, he had been 
deputed to conduct Lorenzo to the presence of the 
Pope. As soon as the people became aware of his 
I purpose, the air was rent with their cries, " Viva 
I sua Eminenza il Cardinale Borgia !" " Long live the 
I Cardinals r " long live the Pope I" was shouted by 
I thousands of voices ; and the pride of the haughty 

i Cardinal increased tenfold, as he viewed the symp- 

I 

I toms of popularity which his presence excited. 

Well did Roderigo Borgia understand the pas- 
sions of those whom he sought to govern. The 
love of show was not the least of the weaknesses 
which he knew to be inherent in the Roman peo- 
ple, and to gratify it to the utmost was always his 
care. A few years previously, the dress and equip- 
ment of the fathers of the church had been more 
consonant to the spirit in which they professed to 



76 MELANTHE. 

govern their flock ; but Paul II., who was a very 
liandsome man, had, in order to render the dress 
more becoming, and thus to ensure the good will 
of such of the Cardinals as had equal pretensions? 
departed widely from the primitive rule of modesty 
in appearance. He granted to the body of Car- 
dinals permission to wear the purple robe and 
jewelled tiara, hitherto sacred to his own use ; also 
the scarlet habit, and housings of the same colour 
for their horses. Upon this occasion, the proud 
Borgia displayed to the eyes of the multitude the 
whole glory of his insignia. Jewels flashed from 
liis tiara, and sparkled not only upon his bridle 
rein, but the deep fringes of gold which bordered 
the housings of his steed were studded with gems, 
and the stirrups of gold, and crimson velvet saddle, 
also shone with jewels. 

The Cardinal, as he reined in the prancing steed, 
which tossed its plumed head impatiently at the 
restraint, rode more with the air of a knight trained 
in the lists, or on the field, than that of a modest 
churchman ; and preceded by his guards, his pages, 
and forty running footmen, in suits of scarlet silk 
and gold, made his way through the assembled 



MEL ANT HE. 77 

multitude, returning with courteous benedictions 
the admiration they bestowed, until, having reached 
the Orsini palace, he disappeared with his glittering 
train beneath the portals. Without dismounting, 
the Cardinal returned the greetings of the circle 
assembled within the court of the palace ; and not 
sorry to be obliged to appear in a character which 
he so well suited, he backed his horse until he stood 
opposite the balcony where Clarice and her beauti- 
ful friend Melanthe were seated ; and bowing 
gracefully, in return for their salutation, resumed 
his place in the procession ; yielding to Lorenzo 
the place of honour, he took his way, riding at the 
left side of his young companion, to the palace of 
the Pope. 

There could not be a greater contrast than was 
afforded by the appearance of Lorenzo de' Medici, 
and the proud Borgia. The splendid dark beauty 
of the Cardinal, enhanced by the briUiant colours 
of his dress and equipment, might have cast into 
the shade one of less pretensions than Lorenzo; 
but the noble air of the young Florentine 
could not be eclipsed. Tall, and beautifully formed, 
he looked to peculiar advantage on horseback. 



78 MELANTHE. 

His dress, of cinnamon-coloured velvet sown with 
silver and pearls, set off the fairness of his com- 
plexion, and the brilliancy of his deep blue eyes ; 
and as he held in his hand the plumed cap, which 
he had removed from his head, in return for the 
applause which had been showered upon him, the 
long curls of his light brown hair fell luxuriantly 
upon the open collar which he wore. Such were 
in appearance the two men, who were esteemed, 
and with reason, the most remarkable of their day. 
Such were the two men, whose names have been 
handed down to posterity, and who will continue to 
be remembered while history remains, as marking, 
the one by his virtues, the other by his crimes, a 
memorable era in the annals of Italy. 






CHAPTER X. 

When Lorenzo and the Cardinal arrived at the 
Palace of the Pope, they were ushered at once into 
his presence. Passing through a lofty hall, which 
was lined with men-at-arms, the Cardinal preceded 
Lorenzo and the citizens who had accompanied 
him, up the long flight of marble steps which led 
to the apartments above. On each step, and at 
either side, stood two servants of the Pope. All 
wore the same magnificent livery of scarlet silk, 
embroidered in gold, with caps of purple velvet, 
looped and bordered with rich bands, upon which 
the cypher of his Holiness, surmounted by a mitre 
and triple crown, were worked in jewels. At the 
top of the stairs were the pages, dressed in purple 
and silver, and the whole length of the gallery was 
crowded with officers of different grades, and the 
attendants of the Cardinals and grand functionaries. 



80 MELANTHE 

who had been summoned to do honour to the young 
Florentine. 

As the door of the audience chamber opened, 
Lorenzo felt almost bewildered by the glare and 
magnificence which burst upon him. Around the 
throne, and extending in a semi-circle, were ranged 
the dignitaries of the Holy See, according to their 
rank. The first row was composed of the Cardinals 
who wore the embroidered robe of purple and the 
tiara of jewels; the second row contained the 
Bishops, who were placed on seats behind, although 
a little above the others, and were dressed in fine 
scarlet cloth, with deep capes, bordered with gold, 
and mitres of the same metal upon their heads. 
The third row, consisting of those who had only 
attained an inferior grade, had robes of white cloth 
clasped with silver ; while the minor officers, 
filling up the space behind, were clothed simply 
in black. 

Upon a throne blazing with jewels, sat the newly 
elected Pontiff, Sixtus IV. ; and as Lorenzo, having 
first done homage at the foot of the throne, ascended 
the ivory steps which led to it, that he might kiss 
the foot of the Pope, and receive his blessing, he 



MELANTHE. 81 

was Struck with the contrast between the scene and 
the individual who occupied the most conspicuous 
place in it. The diminutive form of Sixtus seemed 
actually sinking under the weight of so much 
grandeur ; and his small and pinched features, and 
restless grey eyes, which appeared to look with 
distrust upon every one who approached him, gave 
little idea that his intellect was equal to the exalted 
nature of his station. 

" 'Tis well, my son," he said, after listening to 
the address of Lorenzo, who, in the name of the 
republic of Florence, offered the customary congra- 
tulations upon the accession of a new Pope. " 'Tis 
well — the Holy Church hath need of true and 
honest servitors ; and we, by the grace of God, her 
father and her head, know how to prize the love 
that, for her sake, is tendered to our unworthy self. 
We thank the citizens of Florence for this their 
friendly greeting ; and to thee, my son, we say the 
honour is more great, that one of thy name should 
thus lay the homage of his city at our feet. As Rome 
is dear to Florence, so are the Medici to the father of 
the Holy Church. My son, we bid thee welcome." 

So saying, the Pope slightly rose from his seat, 
E 5 



82 MELANTHE. 

and spreading his hands upon the head of the 
young man, as he bent before him, gave him his 
blessing. Then, re-seating himself, he received the 
thanks of Lorenzo for the signal favour bestowed 
upon him ; and having made some inquiries as to 
the health of Piero de' Medici, and many others of 
the Florentine citizens, who had formerly been 
personally known to himself, he bowed his head, 
when, upon a sign from the Cardinal Borgia, 
who occupied the seat nearest to his Holiness, the 
citizens of Florence retired, and the doors of the 
audience chamber were closed. 

Thus terminated the only interview which 
Sixtus IV., notwithstanding his professions of 
friendship, ever vouchsafed to one of the house 
of the Medici ; yet Lorenzo, although the 
honour which he had received was unusual towards 
a simple citizen, felt a sudden conviction arise 
within his mind that the words and the feelings of 
the Pontiff were at variance with each other. 

The flattery of the Cardinal Borgia, who, as 
he re-conducted Lorenzo to the Orsini palace, 
failed not to dwell upon the singular favour which 
had been manifested towards him, did not dispel 



MELANTHE. 83 

the impression which he had received ; and he 
determined not to quit the Holy City without a 
clear understanding as to the footing upon which 
Rome and Florence were to be for the future, and 
a certainty of the redress of sundry grievances, the 
removal of which formed part of the business of 
his present mission. 

But it soon appeared that business was the last 
thing to be thought of in the city of the Pope. 
Upon every attempt of Lorenzo to obtain some 
definite promise of an arrangement of the points 
which he strongly urged upon the attention of the 
Holy See, he was met by procrastination and 
objections, which, though futile, still retarded the 
fulfilment of his hopes; and, as if to compensate 
him for the disappointment which was often too 
evident in his manner, a constant scene of festivity 
occupied the hours which should have been devoted 
to graver pursuits. 

Lorenzo, though endowed with prudence and 
sagacity beyond his years, was fond of pleasure, 
and particularly addicted both to martial exer- 
cises and the sports of the field. To gratify these 
inclinations, the worthy fathers of the church spared 



84 MELANTHE. 

neither trouble nor expense. So despotic was the 
power then exercised by those whose conduct ought 
to have been an example of forbearance and pro- 
priety, that excesses of all kinds were openly 
countenanced ; and the luxury and levity which 
distinguished the houses of the Cardinals had 
passed into a proverb. 

But where all transgressed as best suited their 
different positions and inclinations, the most 
regardless of restraint, and most flagrant in daring, 
was Roderigo Borgia. 

This extraordinary man was, by birth, a 
Spaniard, having been born in 1431, at Valencia, 
and was supposed to be descended from a 
princely race, once claiming the crowns of Va- 
lencia and Arragon. Endowed with marvellous 
talent and power of intellect, he succeeded 
equally in all that he undertook. Perhaps it 
was in some degree the certainty of success which 
made him so deficient in perseverance ; for no 
sooner had he obtained distinction in any pro- 
fession, than he immediately abandoned it in dis- 
gust. His first renown had been gained as a 
lawyer ; and the power of his eloquence, and 



MELANTHE. 85 

subtlety of argument, soon distanced all compe- 
titors ; but in a short time Roderigo left the field 
open to them by embracing the profession of arms. 
Here his determined courage and coolness in 
several actions, won for him fresh laurels, and a 
career of glory opened to his view ; when, as if 
disgusted by success, he suddenly relinquished his 
military life, and resolved to retire into the country, 
and live unfettered by any profession. He had, 
however, no sooner adopted this resolution, than, 
by the death of his father, he came into the 
possession of a splendid fortune ; and, at the same 
time, the elevation of his uncle to the Papal throne, 
under the name of Calixtus III., opened to him a 
complete change of prospect for the future. But 
by the advancement of his uncle, who had always 
regarded him as a son, Borgia instantly determined 
not to profit. He was resolved not to enter public 
life, and contented himself with simply writing a 
letter of congratulation to the new Pope. Calixtus, 
who had ever been an ardent admirer of the powers 
of his nephew, was so struck by this moderation, 
at a moment when, on all sides, he was assailed by 
claimants and satellites, that he would not allow 



86 MELANTHE. 

Borgia to remain in obscurity, and instantly wrote 
to invite him to Rome. 

Roderigo thanked him, but did not take advan- 
tage of his invitation ; and before two months had 
elapsed, he was surprised by the arrival of a 
Roman prelate, bearing the nomination of Borgia 
to a bishopric worth 20,000 ducats a year, with a 
positive order instantly to repair to Rome. He 
could no longer hesitate ; he quitted Spain, and 
once installed in his new dignities, abandoned 
himself to his natural passion for luxury and 
profusion. The Pope, proud of the talent and 
the splendour of his nephew, continued to heap 
upon him the means of enjoyment ; and soon the 
magnificence of Borgia eclipsed that of the body 
of the Cardinals. His palace was the most sump- 
tuous of the city ; and his country house, situated 
at a short distance from Rome, was the scene 
of every species of amusement and dissipation 
which it was possible to imagine. 

Possessed of princely revenues, which, after the 
death of his uncle Calixtus, were augmented by 
the liberality of the succeeding Popes, over whom 
he always contrived to exercise his powerful sway, 



MELA^'THE. 87 

the establishment of the luxurious Cardinal was on 
a scale of magnificence which few of the Italian 
sovereigns could have ventured to imitate. Hunt- 
ing and hawking were his favourite morning 
pastimes; but latterly a new pursuit had nearly 
superseded all others. Horse-racing had just been 
introduced at Rome. The late Pope, Pius II., 
anxious for some recreation which might distract 
the mind of the people from objects less agreeable 
to the Holy See, had instituted the first horse races 
which had ever been seen at Rome. In a short time, 
the passion for racing was at its height; and 
immense sums were staked upon the spirited animals, 
which without riders flew along the street that 
led to the Piazza San Marco, now known by the 
name of the Corso. This was an amusement too 
consonant with the character of the Borgia, not to 
be, in a short time, carried to excess ; and his 
stables were soon crowded with the finest and 
fleetest horses, which the most extravagant outlay 
could procure. In this, as in other distinctions of 
luxury and profusion, he stood unrivalled. Though 
past his fortieth year, such was the beauty and 
spirit with which he was endowed, that he did not 



»0 MELANTHE. 

seem within ten years of his age ; and whether in 
the lists, or on the field — at the chace, or in the 
bower, no hand was so sure, no step so free, no 
smile so gay, as that of the handsome Cardinal, 
Roderigo Borgia. 

And this was the companion who had been 
chosen by the Pope, to obtain, if it were possible, 
entire possession of the mind of Lorenzo de' Medici. 
Fully informed as to the capacity of him who was 
destined to be the future Governor of Florence, 
the wily Sixtus, who foresaw, in the rising great- 
ness of that republic, the germ of a power which 
might eventually be dangerous to the interests of the 
Holy See, determined that the master spirit should 
be ruled by one under his own guidance. 

For this purpose, he had selected Roderigo 
Borgia, whom intrigues for the future occupation 
of the Papal chair had placed completely in his 
power, and by a conjunction of interest rendered 
also inimical to any further rise of the Florentine 
dominion. The choice had been well made. Ex- 
perience gave to the Cardinal an advantage, of 
which he did not ftiil to avail himself. Young 
and enthusiastic, Lorenzo readily yielded to the 



MELAXTHE. 89 

fascinating influence of the gay and accomplished 
Roderigo, the indecorum of whose conduct was 
partially excused by the extreme licence of the 
times ; and though little mingled with respect, a 
warm friendship soon sprung up in the breast of 
the young man towards one who appeared devoted 
to him, and to the interests of his family. But 
friendship between two natures so dissimilar, could 
not be of long duration. 



CHAPTER XI. 

While Rome was thus occupied with the scenes 
of festivity, Montesecco was lying feeble and helpless 
in the house of Hassan the merchant. His wound 
had at first assumed an alarming appearance, and 
for some days after his arrival, so great had been 
the suffering and fever it had occasioned, that he 
had been unable to leave his couch. Latterly, 
however, his strength had so much improved, that 
he was able to seek the refreshing shade of the gar- 
den ; and there, in the society of the beautiful 
Melanthe, the hours passed away so softly — so joy- 
ously — and so fleetly, that their hearts had taken no 
heed of time, and weeks flew by, and again the hue 
of health returned to the cheek of Montesecco, ere 
he had spoken of quitting the retirement which had 
become so dear to him. 

His thoughts, which seldom before had wandered 
from his duties in the field, had now taken a 



MELANTHE. 91 

different direction; and he bitterly repented the 
rash impulse which had urged him to bind himself 
to the will of another. He knew not the day, nor 
the hour, when his services might be commanded at 
a distance, and once engaged in war, who could tell 
what might be his fate ? And if even it had been 
otherwise, what had Montesecco to oiFer ? With- 
out a home — without a name, a wanderer upon the 
earth, could he ask the beautiful being before him 
to become a wanderer like himself ? Would the 
tented field form a fitting shelter for one nurtured 
in luxury, or the din of a camp, and the perils of a 
warrior's stronghold upon some castled steep, a meet 
bower for her, who, bred up in the mild seclusion 
of a convent, knew nothing of the ways of the 
world, its bitterness, or its strife? Amidst such 
thoughts, the mind of Montesecco turned to him 
who might have averted this sorrow ; but remember- 
ing the sternness with which Luca Pitti had repulsed 
his prayer during their recent interview at Florence, 
he felt that he had no hope, and no right to seek 
the love which he already prized above his life. 

And yet day after day he lingered on the spot; and 
although no mention of the future was ever made. 



92 MEL A>) THE. 

Melanthe knew that she was loved. She looked 
upon the speaking countenance of the young Con- 
dottiere ; and though the most eloquent language 
of love was there, she did not shrink from its mute 
avowal. If lier cheek crimsoned as the dark eyes 
of Montesecco sought hers, she did not turn from 
their glance; if her heart trembled as his step 
approached, she did not the less kindly advance to 
meet him. In the beautiful confidence of innocent 
and happy love, she felt a security in his presence, 
which placed all fear at a distance, and wrapped 
the future in a veil of peaceful delight, which she 
sought not to put aside. So happy was this dream- 
ing state of love, that whenever she observed any 
unusual expression upon the countenance of Mon- 
tesecco, her heart would sink within her, for she 
trembled lest a word might destroy the illusion in 
which she dwelt. How often does grief seem to cast 
its shadow before it, while the heart forebodes a sor- 
row, which it has no rational cause to apprehend ; 
and when the blow has fallen, how does the recol- 
lection of that foreboding recur with double force ! 
One morning, Melanthe, having returned earlier 
than was her custom, from a visit to Clarice 



MELANTHE. 93 

Orsini, was surprised, upon entering the house of 
Hassan, to find that Montesecco was absent. She 
had been so accustomed to see him every day, that 
it appeared extraordinary that he should not occupy 
the same places and Melanthe stood gazing with 
a sensation bordering on stupefaction upon the 
couch, beside which she had so often watched 
during his hours of pain. 

She quitted the room, and walked through the 
garden to the terrace overhanging the river, where, 
in company with Hassan, Gennaro, and Montesecco, 
she had of late so happily passed the long summer 
evenings. Every inanimate object was as she had 
seen them the day before. The river gliding 
rapidly by — the bright sun tinting with gold the 
purple hills of the Campagna ; and nearer to her 
were signs of life and joy — the butterfly still 
sporting on the variegated beds of flowers — the hum 
of the bee amongst the heavy boughs of the lemon 
trees — and the songof the joyous birds as they bade 
adieu to the deep blue sky. Melanthe thought upon 
all these — all that she had hitherto held so dear — all 
that had of late appeared yet more beautiful — then 
she turned to gaze upon a vacant seat by her side ; 



94 MELANTHE. 

and neither the sun, nor the flowers, nor the birds, 
had power again to attract her eye, she saw only in 
the world that one spot — the spot which had been 
occupied by Montesecco. 

It was vacant. Might it not be so again ? and 
for ever ? and for the first time Melanthe asked 
her heart what then would be its grief — what then 
would be to her the bright world around ? The 
moment when the mind first perceives that its own 
power is gone, that through the heart it has yielded 
to another its best feelings — its warmest affections — 
its truest devotion — is one which, however rap- 
turous, is not unmixed with terror. With the 
certainty of loving, comes the fear of not being 
beloved — the sensitiveness of an overstrained hu- 
mility, detracting from self to invest the one 
beloved with virtues and qualities which make it 
appear impossible to approach him upon an equality. 
It is a beautiful weakness of woman^s heart, to bow 
thus before a power elevated by the grandeur of 
her own soul and the tenderness of her love, to an 
ideal standard of perfection immeasurably above 
herself. 

Melanthe experienced this feeling so exquisitely 



MELANTHE. 95 

as to cause her a sensation of alarm^ which for the 
moment clouded her better j udgment. With the idea 
of the love of Montesecco came a painful sense of her 
own insignificance. She thought of the superiority 
of his mind — his chivalrous sense of honour — 
his tried and renowned bravery and skill in the 
profession he had chosen — the estimation in which 
Hassan had told her he was held by all men ; and 
then, as her mind reverted to qualities which, if 
less brilliant, were more dear, his gentleness and 
kindness of heart, and the many accomplishments 
which lent to his society so peculiar a charm — she 
thought of herself. What was she, that he should 
love her ? and the humility of her heart answered, 
" Nothing ! '' 

Slowly and sadly she turned from the spot upon 
which she had gazed, with a devotion that conjured 
up to her view the form which had so often lingered 
there. She turned away, and leaning upon the 
marble balustrade of the terrace, the tears which 
had long gathered beneath the fixed eyelid, fell 
slowly upon her cheek — the first sweet tears of 
love. 

Silently they fell, but not unmarked ; for in 



96 MELANTHE. 

another moment Gennaro was at her side. She 
tried to smile, but the effort was too great ; and she 
held out her hand to the poor boy, who loved her 
so fondly, that, to see her weep, his own eyes were 
suffused with tears. He took her hand, and covering 
it with kisses, pressed it within his own, and lifted 
them imploringly towards her, as if entreating her 
not to grieve. The intellect of Gennaro seemed to 
have gained double strength from the affliction 
under which he laboured. He appeared to com- 
prehend everything by intuition ; and such was his 
devotion to Hassan and Melanthe, that, to watch 
their looks and the words he could not hear, and 
endeavour if possible to forestall their wishes, was 
his constant occupation and delight. To gaze 
upon the rapidity of expression which his counte- 
nance displayed, none could have imagined that at 
least the sense of hearing was denied to him ; and 
as turning his bright eyes upwards, he would follow 
the light course of the bird that warbled in the air, 
it appeared as though each note of joy had found 
its echo in the heart of him who smiled so gladly. 

Every one loved the boy, and to Melanthe he 
was as a young brother, rendered doubly dear by 



MELANTHE. 97 

his misfortune. And now they stobd together like 
two bright beauteous flowers, eacli entwining and 
supporting the other ; and the tears of Melanthe 
ceased when she looked upon the sorrow of the 
boy, and, soothed by his mute endeavour to comfort 
her, she smiled once more. But the smile was 
checked by a sigh, as she involuntarily glanced 
towards the seat where she usually sat — Gennaro 
caught the direction of her eye — the cause of her 
sorrow rushed to his mind. For an instant, his 
face was suffused with crimson, and then, with a 
sob which convulsed his whole frame, he let fall 
the hand which he still held, and turning quickly 
away disappeared among the trees of the garden. 
His mood was often wayward ; and Melanthe in a 
few moments had forgotten his abrupt departure — 
had forgotten his very existence, and the whole 
world, for Montesecco stood by her side. 



VOL. II. 



CHAPTER XII. 

Bright was the smile that now wreathed the 
beautiful lip of Melanthe — bright and sunny as 
the world around and the heaven above ; and the 
words of gladness and the low silver laugh bespoke 
the heart lightened of its load. But the buoyancy 
which had returned to her spirit, gladdened not 
the heart of Montesecco. She stood before him 
beaming with joy ; and yet, as he raised his eyes 
to her's, the look of the young Condottiere was 
troubled and sad. A recollection of the foreboding 
of evil from which she had suffered a short time 
before flaslied across the mind of Melanthe ; yet 
she would not suffer it to dwell there ; and fearing 
that the least observation might confirm the im- 
pression of sorrow he had received, she avoided all 
question or remark, and endeavoured, by her gay 
conversation, to restore the spirits of Montesecco to 1 
their usual tone. This gentle device of love was 



MELANTHE. 99 

not lost upon him for whom it was practised ; and 
the sigh which accompanied the smile with which 
he spoke, somewhat chilled the eager joy of his 
companion. 

She turned from him for a moment, and as she 
did so she met the bright eyes of Gennaro, who 
was standing at a little distance. Without analys- 
ing the impression which led to the conviction, 
Melanthe knew that she had in some manner 
wounded the feelings of the poor boy ; and now, 
partly to console him, and partly from a sensation 
of shyness, which she could not control, she felt 
the presence of a third party would be a relief, and 
she made a sign to Gennaro to take his place at her 
side. Gennaro, however, did not obey ; he only 
shook his head, and turned down an opposite path 
from that on which she stood. 

" Poor Gennaro !"" she said ; " how I grieve to 
have given him pain." 

" Why do you imagine that he suffers ?'' asked 
Montesecco. " His mood, like all who are so 
afflicted, is changeable ; but you never could have 
been unkind — it is impossible.'' 

'' Alas ! I fear that I may have been so,'"* replied 



100 MELANTHE. 

Melanthe. " It was but a moment since he was 
all joy and life, yet now he shuns me. I would 
that his life were happier,"" she added, with a 
sigh. 

" And yet there may be those who envy even the 
life that you deplore as wanting happiness,"" said 
Montesecco. " Is it not better,"' he continued, 
" never to have known a joy, than to be compelled 
to resign those we have learned to value ?"" 

" Perhaps it may be,"" answered Melanthe ; " still 
I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of happiness, 
deprived of interchange of thought. All created 
beings, even all inanimate nature appear to have 
a language of their own ; and to one endowed with 
such quick perceptions as Gennaro, it must be 
misery to be cut off from all intellectual commu- 
nication. I often fear that he suffers, though he 
never complains/"* 

" It is scarcely in human nature to suffer in 
silence,""* replied Montesecco. " The expression of 
sorrow may be for a time suppressed ; but sooner 
or later the hearfs grief will tremble on the lip."*"* 

The tone in which these words were spoken 
thrilled through the bosom of Melanthe. She 



MELANTHE. 101 

turned her eyes to those of Montesecco, but let 
them fall as she marked the depth of expression in 
his glance. For a moment neither spoke, and when 
the ear of Melanthe again caught the sound of that 
voice so dear to her, it was lower and more sad than 
she had ever heard it before. 

" You, who have so much kindness to others,"" 
he said, " will you think it presumptuous, if I 
entreat for pity ?" 

" Pity !"*' said Melanthe, in a tone of surprise. 

" Yes, pity ;'"* he replied. " It is all I ask — all 
I dare to ask ; and when I am gone, when I am 
far away, think of me— if, indeed, you think at all, 
with pity ; for my sorrow is more deep than I can 
tell." 

'' You will not leave us ?" exclaimed Melanthe, 
hastily. 

" Alas !" said Montesecco, " I leave Rome this 
night — this very hour. An insurrection has broken 
out at Volterra, and I am commanded instantly to 
march with my troops, so as to be upon the spot in 
case the Pope should see fit to interfere. I ought 
to have been gone long since ; but I could not 
leave you — leave Rome, I should say, without one 



102 MELANTHE. 

word of farewell— one brief word of thanks for 
kindness which I never can repay C" and, he added, 
in a tone almost inaudible, " for happiness I can 
never know again !" 

But Melanthe heard him not ; or if she did, his 
words fell upon the ear without reaching the sense. 
The first were enough — enough to wither within 
her breast the heart that a moment before had beat 
rapturously, as she listened to his voice. He was 
going, and what was the world now to her ? — a 
pathless waste — a region without a sun. The glory 
of her day dream was gone, the vision of joy she 
had conjured up had faded away before her eyes, 
and the chill that crept over her was all that 
remained, to tell how warm and bright were the 
hopes that had vanished. 

Sick at heart, Melanthe could not answer the 
words which Montesecco had addressed to her ; 
she turned upon him a look of so much sorrow, 
that he at once saw the hope confirmed which he 
had long nourished in secret. The nature of 
Melanthe was not one which, under a semblance of 
modesty, endeavours to heighten the value of an 
avowal by a pretence of withholding it. She had 



MELANTHE. 103 

loved Montesecco too long to imagine that he was 
ignorant of the affection with which she regarded 
him. She knew that it was reciprocal, and had 
never sought to conceal her feelings. But too 
much occupied with present happiness, the vague 
manner in which she had glanced at the future, 
had prevented her from ever inquiring into the 
station or worldly advantages of him she loved ; 
and now, in the announcement of his sudden de- 
parture, she felt the confirmation of a terrible fear 
which had sometimes flashed across her mind, and 
she saw that they were about to be separated for 
ever. The grief of such a thought was too hard 
to bear. The colour fled from her cheek ; and, 
leaning on the balustrade of the terrace with one 
hand, while the other was pressed convulsively to 
her heart, she turned away her head to conceal the 
tears forced from her by the depth of her sorrow. 

The emotion of her he so madly loved was more 
than the resolution of Montesecco could endure — 
the rapture with which he beheld the proof of his 
power over the heart which he coveted beyond 
every other possession on the earth, lit up his coun- 
tenance with a sudden joy ; and drawing the hand 



104 MELANTHE. 

of Melanthe within his own, in another moment 
his determination to leave, unshackled by any vow, 
her whom he scarcely dared to hope it might be 
his to soothe and bless, was forgotten ; and words 
of passionate love had been spoken, and those dear 
lips, upon which trembled an avowal of the same 
heartfelt affection, had been pressed again and again 
to his own, ere he remembered the stern command, 
which forbade him, on pain of being cast off for 
ever, to link his fate with that of any one unsanc- 
tioned by him to whom he owed the obedience of 
a son. 

There had been times when this command had 
weighed with Montesecco — when the voluntary 
promise he had given to Luca Pitti, rose up before 
him, and froze upon his lips the burning words in 
which he would have poured forth his love ; but 
those were the hours of reason, and when had reason 
aught to do with love ? It was not when the earth 
seemed to glide from beneath his feet — when the 
air and the heavens appeared as a chaos of light 
and joy so dazzling, that sight and sense reeled 
beneath its glory — when all was confusion, and 
thought chased thought in rapid whirling through 



MELANTHE. 105 

his brain, that Montesecco could think with mea- 
sured coldness on the rash step he had taken : — 
the past and the future were merged in the pre- 
sent — in that one moment of superhuman bliss, 
when the certainty of being beloved first breaks 
upon the soul ; and Montesecco, as he clasped the 
hand of Melanthe in his own, and kissed away the 
tears of joy which trembled in her eyes, forgot all 
save the beauteous being by his side. 

Better had it been if he had remembered that 
the world still contained others besides her whose 
love had made it a paradise to him. He would not 
then have trembled as he marked the death-like 
paleness that overspread the face of her he loved, 
as, raising her head from the breast where it had 
rested, some hideous object seemed to fascinate her 
gaze. He would not then have felt the shock that 
turns the heart to stone, as, following that gaze, 
his eyes rested upon the fiend-like countenance of 
him, who had, doubtless, been a mute spectator of 
their transports — of him, who, of all the world, he 
most dreaded — of him, whose withering sneer, at 
such an hour, was like poison dropped upon sweet 
flowers — of the cold, the calculating, the insidious 
F 5 



106 



MELAHTHE. 



Luca Pitti — the ruler of his destiny, and the bane 
of his existence. It was too true — Luca Pitti stood 
before them with his teeth set, and his eyes glaring, 
as though the sight of human joy was odious to his 
perverted spirit. 

" Woman !" he said sternly, and the deep sullen 
tone of his voice was the knell of departing hap- 
piness, " what have you done ? Know you not, 
that he to whom you have plighted your faith is 
already affianced to another P'"* 

The shriek with which Melanthe tore herself 
from his arms, and fled towards the house, first 
recalled the bewildered senses of Montesecco. 
Starting from where he stood, he would have fol- 
lowed her, but Luca Pitti laid his hand upon his 
arm. 

" You have disobeyed me once — I forgive you. 
If you re-enter that house, you are lost for ever — 
and she whom you love — Melanthe — will never see 
you more."" 

" What means this mystery ?' said Montesecco, 
angrily. *' And why am I thus thwarted in the 
only hope I have ever dared to form ? By heavens! 
I will not bear it." 



MELANTHE. 107 

«' It is but for the present," said Luca Pitti, 
soothingly. " A little while, and you shall be 
free ; a little while, and the power of Luca Pitti 
over you will have ceased. Till then, be patient — 
now follow me." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

In a small room, the windows of which were 
high from the ground, and closely barred with 
iron, sat four men, apparently in deep deliberation. 
He, who occupied the upper end of the narrow 
table, which stood in the centre of the room, was 
distinguished by little save the excessive meanness 
of his appearance. It would have been difficult 
to have recognised in the meagre individual, whose 
scanty habiliments bespoke almost abject poverty, 
the potentate who, on public occasions, was wont to 
show himself so gorgeously attired and surrounded, 
liad not the cunning and restless expression 
which so forcibly characterised the countenance of 
Sixtus IV., been of that peculiar kind, which, once 
beheld, never could be forgotten. 

He was the son of a poor fisherman of Savona ; 



MELANTHE. 109 

and although obscurity of birth does not necessarily 
entail degeneracy of taste, yet the squalor of his 
present appearance was in unison with his nature. 
Pomp and splendour were the masks with which 
he sought to delude the public ; while distrust, 
meanness, want of faith, jealousy, and revenge, 
equally raged within his breast, whether that 
breast was covered with the robe of purple, or 
the frock of serge. 

Clothed in the garb of a Franciscan, the order 
to which he had belonged previous to his eleva- 
tion to the Papal chair, his head covered with a 
small worn-out cap of velvet, his elbows resting 
on the table before him, and his feet and garments 
carefully tucked up, upon the bars of the arm- 
chair, sat Sixtus, listening apparently with de- 
lighted attention to some intelligence which the 
Cardinal, Roderigo Borgia, was detailing to him 
in a low voice. The other two occupants of the 
chamber were Piero Acciajuoli and Francesco 
de' Pazzi, both Florentine nobles, banished from 
their native city, the one, for having openly con- 
spired against the Medici ; the other self-exiled by 
a rancorous jealousy which rendered their very 



110 MELANTHE. 

name too hateful to allow of an existence within its 
reach. These two conversed apart, as though 
unwilling to appear interested in the communica- 
tion of Borgia to the Pope ; but the anxious glance 
with which they scanned the countenance of the 
old man, as some expression more forcible than 
usual escaped from his lips, showed how deep was 
their interest in the subject now under discussion. 

But still greater was the almost trembling anxiety 
with which the words of Borgia were devoured by 
the Pope; and more than once, a look of con- 
tempt might have been traced upon the proud and 
handsome face of the Cardinal, as he beheld the 
grasping eagerness of a man bordering on four- 
score to increase the authority, and accumulate 
the wealth which must so soon pass from his hands. 
Borgia, however, had his own reasons for complying, 
with an almost servile submission, with the wishes of 
the Pope ; and although the plan which he now 
detailed had been for some time the subject of his 
thoughts, he affected to have only conceived the 
idea from some hints thrown out by his Holiness ; 
thus allowing Sixtus, who piqued himself particu- 
larly on his sagacity, to imagine that the skilful 



MELAI7THE. Ill 

suggestions to which he now listened v/ere original 
emanations from his own brain. 

And now it appeared that the conference was 
about to break up, 'for the Pope, raising himself 
from his leaning posture, threw himself back in 
his chair, and rubbed his withered hands together 
with an expression of glee bordering upon idiotcy : 
for a few moments all were silent ; when a low tap 
at the door announced a visitor, and Luca Pitti 
entered the apartment. 

" What, alone ?'' asked the Pope, with an air of 
consternation, " our intelligence was then untrue ?'' 

"May it please your Holiness, we had been 
rightly informed ; but upon questioning the young 
man, I found him in no gentle mood, and feared 
to bring him hither, lest he should too suddenly 
become possessed of our intentions. He only 
tarries to give some directions to such of his officers 
as remain in the city, ere he takes the road which 
he should have followed this morning." 

" 'Tis well," replied Sixtus ; " but why went he 
not forth to-day, as we had commanded ? To 
dally thus, bespeaks a lack of zeal that ill-becomes 
the name of Montesecco." 



112 MELANTHE. 

" A momentary weakness," so please your Holi- 
ness. " It is not the first time a soldier has been 
lured from his high duty by a woman's smile."" 

" A woman what, in Rome ?" asked the Pope, 

with more curiosity than quite befitted his sacred 
calling. 

" Ay, in Rome. I found the brave Condottiere 
exchanging love vows with a Grecian damsel — 
the fair Melanthe, daughter of old Hassan the 
merchant." 

" This must be looked to,'' said the Pope seri- 
ously ; " we must not have our soldiers tampered 
with.'' 

Luca Pitti had not noticed the start with which 
Roderigo Borgia had heard the name of Melanthe 
in conjunction with that of Montesecco ; but as 
his own object was to detach the Condottiere from 
any tie which might interfere with his influence 
over him, and that he knew, from the necessity 
of his services, neither the Pope nor the Cardinal 
could be indifferent to aught that might effect his 
independence, he was not surprised at the sudden 
interest which the subject appeared to have excited 
in the bosom of the Cardinal, who, making a sign 



MELANTHE. 113 

to him to retire from the council table, besran 
eagerly to question him as to every word which 
had passed between Melanthe and Montesecco. 

But the wily Borgia had soon extracted all that 
Luca Pitti knew of the affair ; and a laugh, more 
befitting the lips of a boon companion than a 
reverend Prelate, broke from him, as he listened 
to the device by which Luca Pitti had contrived 
to separate the lovers without giving them time 
for any explanation. Each had their own designs 
in the matter ; and, as they turned from the comer 
where they had stood during their brief but inter- 
esting conversation, and took their places at the 
table where the secret council of the Pope was held, 
both the Cardinal and Luca Pitti separately con- 
gratulated themselves that they had outwitted each 
other, by making it appear as though their anxiety 
to keep Montesecco unshackled by any domestic 
tie, arose solely from disinterested and public 
motives. 

In those days, when fraud or force were the 
usual principles of action, — where every partisan, 
however humble, became an individual of con- 
sequence, either from the knowledge he might 



114 MELANTHE. 

possess, or the advantage to which his services 
might be turned, it was a matter of state policy 
that no intelligence respecting the habits, disposi- 
tions, or connexions of such persons should be 
neglected. Where the falling off of one adherent 
might endanger a whole state, it is not surprising 
that a rigorous system of espionage should have 
been established. To the intriguing and narrow 
mind of Sixtus this was a source of never-failing 
interest ; and to be fully informed of every circum- 
stance relating to the meanest of his partisans, was 
a point upon which he particularly prided himself. 
It may be imagined that the least appearance of 
defection in so important a personage as Monte- 
secco, the leader of a chosen band of several 
thousand men, was a circumstance which would 
occasion no small excitement in the breasts of those 
to whom his co-operation was so necessary ; and it 
required more persuasion than Luca Pitti had 
anticipated, to convince the timid and suspicious 
old man that no danger was to be apprehended 
from the attachment of Montesecco and Melanthe. 
" I believe what thou sayest, my good friend," 
replied Sixtus to the reiterated assurances of Luca 



MELANTHE. 115 

Pitti that all fear upon the subject was groundless. 
" I believe it all — and thou hast acted wisely and 
well. But there are other dangers. This Hassan, 
who thou tellest me is the maiden's father, is a man 
of no common mould. None can tell from whence 
he came, and yet his influence in the city is great — 
his wealth unbounded, and all the greatest mer- 
chants from Florence and from Venice flock to his 
house. Thus much we know, yet so cautious is 
his speech, that which way in policy he inclines, 
none may say. Some call him a spy from Venice — 
some a secret emissary of the Medici. The Orsini 
are his friends, — Clarice, the daughter of Jacopo 
Orsini, is the bosom friend of this Melanthe, whom 
Montesecco loves. Through their influence, may 
not the Condottiere be withdrawn from us ? or,'' 
he continued, and his voice trembled as he spoke, 
" may he not betray us, and hold us, the Father of 
the Holy Church, up to the scorn of all nations ? "" 
" Fear not," said Luca Pitti, proudly ; " the 
heart of Montesecco will break ere it betray. This 
love might have been dangerous, but I trust the 
means I have taken will have destroyed all hope 
within the bosom of the maiden ; and as Monte- 



116 MELANTHE. 

secco will not revisit Rome, we may trust a woman's 
faith for remembering the absent."" 

" Yes — yes/"* replied the Pope, apparently cheered 
by the smile that so seldom lighted the sullen coun- 
tenance of Luca Pitti. 

" We will do more — a fitting husband shall be 
found for the damsel ; but not an Orsini. We 
will give her to a Colonna. — Ha ! now we recollect, 
there is the gay young Mariano di Colonna, a 
youth no maiden would reject." 

" It will be time enough hereafter, so please 
your Holiness,'' interposed the Cardinal, " to think 
of giving a nameless maiden to one of the proud 
Colonnas ; when we have quelled the feud between 
their race and that of the Orsini, by crushing both 
— then may we risk an insult without danger of 
revenge." 

" True — true — most prudent Borgia," said the 
Pope, somewhat alarmed at the possibility which 
the words of the Cardinal aroused in his mind. 
" We will think of it hereafter. And now, my 
friends — no doubt you would gladly know why 
we have thus summoned you to attend in our most 
secret council chamber." 



mj:lanthe. 117 

All eyes were anxiously turned upon the face of 
the Pope, except those of the Cardinal, who sat 
abstracted, stroking his glossy beard with one 
hand, while the other played with the jewelled 
chain depending from his neck. 

" It is to confide to you our unalterable determi- 
nation to devise some plan whereby we may check 
the growing insolence of the Medici," continued 
Sixtus, who, had he substituted the word " power,'' 
for " insolence,'' would have more nearly delivered 
the true meaning of his sentiments than he was 
wont to do. A murmur of approbation broke from 
the lips of the Florentine exiles, who had preserved 
silence during the earlier part of the discussion. 

" We have none here but friends ? " exclaimed 
Sixtus, looking timidly around, as he observed the 
silence of the Cardinal. A slight inclination of 
the head from Borgia, an intimation that he did 
not wish to be disturbed from his reverie before it 
was actually necessary, re-assured the Pope ; and 
he continued : — " An important event has occurred. 
Filippo de' Medici, Archbishop of Pisa, is dead. 
His loss may prove a death-blow to the influence 
of the family at Pisa ; and the better to ensure it, 



118 MELANTHE. 

we have given the Archbishopric to Francesco 
Salviati.'' 

« The most bitter enemy of the Medici/' 
exclaimed Piero Acciajuoli; " and what say the 
magistrates of Florence to the appointment ?^ 

" They have refused him possession of the Epis- 
copal palace," replied the Pope, "and will not 
acknowledge the pontifical mandate."" 

" But," said Francesco de' Pazzi sternly, " will 
your Holiness submit to their dictation ? If so, 
then farewell to any hope of recovering our rights." 

" Nay, my good Francesco, you are too hasty. 
It was to consult you as to the best means of 
repressing their insolence, that we summoned you 
hither — you, who have been so foully wronged by 
the Medici. Our troops already march upon Pisa. 
The Florentine deputy has no force to withstand 
ours ; therefore Salviati will sooner or later attain 
his rights. But it is to the future we look. On 
all sides is our power — the power of the Holy 
Church, circumscribed by the underhand influence 
of the Medici. This very day, we have heard that 
Volterra is in commotion. A mine of alum, of 
incalculable value, has been discovered near the 



MELANTHE. 119 

city ; the citizens claim its revenue for their state ; 
while the Florentine merchants have seized upon 
the profits. The matter has been referred by Piero 
to his son Lorenzo ; and not an hour since the mes- 
senger of Volterra quitted Rome, bearing back the 
answer of this insolent scion of the Medici, " That 
sooner should Volterra be reduced to a heap of 
ashes, than the city of Florence yield, even the 
shadow of a right possessed by her meannest 
citizens."" 

" Bravely spoken," exclaimed Borgia, for the 
first time taking part in the conversation. " This 
Lorenzo, when he comes to power, will find 
some work for the soldiers of the Holy Church, or 
I much marvel." 

There was something in the nature of Borgia, 
which, if not noble, was yet capable of appreciating 
in others a pride of spirit congenial to his own. 
Sixtus turned a penetrating look towards him as he 
spoke ; but the interests of Borgia were those of 
the Holy See, and the sensation of distrust which 
had entered the bosom of Sixtus, vanished in a 
moment. He was about to speak again, when Fran- 
cesco de' Pazzi, rising, exclaimed — 



120 MELANTHE. 

" Is it permitted, in the presence of your Holi- 
ness, to speak without reserve ?" 

The Pope made a sign of assent, and Francesco 
continued. 

" Then would I affirm most solemnly, that, if the 
power of the Medici be thus permitted to increase, 
the downfal of Rome is inevitable. Nay, I meant 
not," he said, observing the start of surprise with 
which the Pope and the Cardinal interchanged 
glances, " I meant not to say that the church will 
be deprived of her head, or the bench of the cardi- 
nals abolished. Nor, that the palaces of the nobles 
will be levelled with the dust. No, Rome will still 
have a Pope — the Cardinals will still surround the 
throne — and the nobles will flock to the Palace. 
The body may be the same — but the spirit will 
be wanting. Consider the state of Italy. On the 
one side, Rome, and the kingdom of Naples ; on 
the other, the republics of Venice and of Florence. 
Compare the advance of the last with the retro- 
gression of the others. Compare, and tremble. 
Rome, impoverished, forces the unwilling mite from 
the people, under the sacred mask of the Jubilee ; 
and Naples, scarce supporting herself, trembles 



MELANTHE. 121 

before the threat of a French invasion ; while 
Florence alone dares to brave the whole world; 
and Venice, proud of her friendship, covers the 
seas with her galleys for the protection of the 
interests of the Medici. The Florentine republic 
will rise till it stands a monument of greatness, 
founded upon the ruins of all those states which 
have not ministered to its pride. But it is not the 
pride of Florence, it is the ambition of the Medici, 
and their influence, that will work the ruin of Italy. 
Their commercial relations are established in every 
city. The riches of the East pour into the coffers 
of their bankers ; and so unbounded is their wealth, 
that were they to call in the loans they have made 
to other states, more than one crowned head would 
see his people bankrupt. By these means, they 
hold in terror half the sovereigns of Europe ; by 
these means, the flower of the nobility of Florence 
are exiles in a foreign land ; and by these means, if 
unchecked, will every state be undermined, till all 
the Potentates of Europe will tremble at their nod, 
and the Father of the Holy See become a puppet 
in their hands.'" 

" 'Tis a fearful prospect, my son,"" said the 

VOL. II. G 



122 MELANTHE. 

Pope timidly ; " yet we will Iiope, that, by the 
prudence of our measures, such ruin may be 
averted." 

" There is but one way,'' said Francesco de' 
Pazzi, solemnly. 

" Prudence may do much — determination may 
do more.'' 

" What would you suggest ?'''' asked the Pope 
anxiously. 

" The extermination, root and branch, of those 
who, from citizens of Florence, have become its 
tyrants — 'Death to the Medici /'" 

These words produced an effect almost elec- 
trical upon the aged Sixtus. He looked fearfully 
round — drew his garments closer to his shrivelled 
form, while the nervous twitching of his feeble 
hands prevented his feeling the robe that he 
grasped. He gazed from one to the other of the 
conspirators, for so they might justly be called, 
but gathered no comfort from their excited looks. 
Then he turned his trembling glance to the broad 
brow of Roderigo Borgia, and the veins which 
had started in tlie old man s forehead gradually 
sunk to the level of the shrivelled skin ; — the 



MELAXTHE. 123 

lips, which a sudden terror had blanched, resumed 
their blue and livid hue; and the thin fingers 
ceased their trembling, as the Holy Father of the 
Church crossed his hands upon the breast whose 
fears were hushed, as he beheld the calm and 
unmoved aspect of him whose will governed his 
own, and who listened with a smile of approval 
to a proposal of — Murder! 



CHAPTER XIV. 

In the character of Montesecco, with a courage 
of unequalled daring, and a spirit of endurance 
seldom allied to intellect of an inferior order, was 
strangely blended a momentary indecision where 
he was personally concerned, that often marred 
the just conclusions to which his soundness of judg- 
ment otherwise would have led him. In no case 
had this been so apparent as in the nature of his 
communications with Luca Pitti; and so aware 
was the latter of this defect in the character of 
Montesecco, that the thraldom in which he still 
contrived to hold the man, upon whom Italy 
looked as a hero, was chiefly maintained by a con- 
stant and watchful calculation of this his only 
weakness. Like the depth of a river, which, by 
frequent sounding, renders the acute observer as 
familiar with all that is beneath its surface, as 



I MELANTHE. 125 

though it were revealed to his sight ; so had the 
incessant vigilance of Luca Pitti seized upon every 
variation of feehng in the character of the Con- 
dot tiere. It was of Httle importance to one so 
crafty and designing, that the very weakness upon 
which he unhesitatingly practised, arose from ten- 
derness of heart and affectionate solicitude for the 
wishes of others. The fear of giving pain to one 
who had watched over his childhood, and to whom, 
having never known other parents, he had always 
yielded the devotion of a child, had more than 
once interposed between Montesecco, and the spirit 
of independence which urged him to insist upon 
some disclosure relative to his birth and station. 

Well did Luca Pitti know his victim ! It only 
needed a word of reproach — a look of sorrow, to 
soften the gentle nature of Montesecco, and reduce 
him to obedience ; and the concession which interest 
or worldly advantages could not have wrung from 
him, was oiTered up at the shrine of gratitude 
and affection. The struggle had often been diffi- 
cult, but upon no occasion had he found an impos- 
sibility of obedience to the wishes of Luca Pitti, 
until the cruel mandate of the latter tore him from 



1£6 



MELANTHE. 



the side of Melanthe; and, by the falsehood he had 
uttered, implying a want of faith on the part of 
Montesecco, estranged perhaps for ever the heart 
which he prized above the whole world. Tht 
master-stroke, upon which Luca Pitti so much 
prided himself, had well nigh been the cause of a 
serious quarrel between him and Montesecco ; and, 
as they quitted the house of Hassan, so violent had 
been the indignation with which such an inter- 
ference had been repelled, that Luca Pitti wisely 
determined that one who was himself labouring 
under so much agitation, could scarcely be a fitting 
counsellor in the secret chamber of the Pope, when 
a matter of life and death might hang upon each 
word incautiously uttered. 

It was this which had caused Luca Pitti to 
return alone to the palace, from whence he had 
been dispatched by the Pope, to desire the presence 
of the Condottiere ; information having been re- 
ceived that, though commanded to lead a portion 
of his troops towards Volterra, Montesecco still 
lingered in the city. A small body of soldiers had 
been dispatched early in the morning ; and before 
Luca Pitti quitted the Condottiere, he extracted 



MELANTHE. 127 

from him a solemn promise that within an hour 
he would set forward with the main body. 

And Montesecco had kept his promise, and soon 
his long lances glittered in the rays of a depart- 
ing sun, and for the iirst time their young leader 
took his place with a feeling of despondency and 
regret, among the brave men who had so often 
marched at his command. 

So accustomed were the citizens of Rome to the 
clang of armour in their streets, that few heads 
were turned as the clattering train of Montesecco 
wound along ; and without interruption they passed 
through the gates of the city, and were soon lost 
to sight. 

So far Montesecco had fulfilled his promise ; but, 
in an evil hour for his resolution, as he ascended 
the hill on the opposite side of the river, his eye 
caught the dwelling of Hassan, resting beneath the 
shade of the beautiful plane trees which ornamented 
his garden. In the absence of verdure which was 
just visible around, the garden of Hassan was a 
landmark. The eyes of Montesecco were rivetted 
upon it. He could see the very spot, where, a few 
hours before, he had received the first vow of the 



128 



MELANTHt. 



glowing heart of Melanthe. The terrace on which 
they had stood, gleamed painfully white above the 
dark bank of the river. Montesecco reined in his 
horse — he could not withdraw his eyes from the spot. 
There, beneath those trees, dwelt the being that he 
loved ; and " perhaps,'' he exclaimed, as the recollec- 
tion of the harshness of Luca Pitti forced itself on 
his mind, " the only being who loves me — the only 
one who ever has loved me ; and I abandon her 
at the bidding of a tyrant — abandon her at the 
moment when her ear is poisoned against me ; and 
leave a heart like her's to gnaw itself away — a pride 
like her's to writhe and wither under the idea of 
having been trifled with and deceived." 

It was too much to bear ; the love of Montesecco 
was too deep and too true, not to feel wliat must be 
the sufferings of the heart which he read by his 
own. One instant he glanced towards his troops — 
he might yet overtake them before their night's 
march was over ; freed from the indecision which a 
short time before had cost him so dear, he turned his 
horse's head towards the city, and did not slacken 
his speed until once again he stood before the dwel- 
ling of Hassan. Trembling with anxiety and love, 



MELANTHE. 129 

he threw himself from his horse, and entered the 
house. But vain was his haste — vain the hope 
which had added wings to his course, that a few 
moments would suffice to explain the dilemma in 
which he stood. The apartment usually occupied 
by Melanthe was empty. She might be in the 
garden. With hasty steps Montesecco traversed 
every well-known path. All was silent and solitary. 
He knew that Hassan had quitted his home the 
day before, on an expedition to a neighbouring 
convent ; but where was Melanthe ? Where was 
Gennaro ? He, whose presence, though mute, ever 
added by his gay spirit to the joyousness of the 
scene ? Where had he flown ? In deep anxiety, 
Montesecco returned to the house. The servants 
were questioned — but no intelligence could be 
obtained. 

" The Signora," they said, " had not been seen 
for some hours. She might be at the Orsini palace 
— she might be at the convent— or wandering 
amongst the ruins, as was her constant custom.'' 
In short, where she might be was a matter of con- 
jecture ; but one thing was certain, the dwelling of 
Hassan no longer sheltered the form of !Melanthe ; 
G 5 



130 MELANTHE. 

and the heart of Montesecco grew sick, as he 
remembered his oath to Luca Pitti, and knew that 
every minute thus stolen from his duties was 
fraught with dishonour. 

Again and again did he traverse every part of 
the garden, calling on the name of her he loved ; 
but the echo of his own voice was all the answer he 
received. Still, as he hesitated, the moments wore 
away, the light was fading from the skies, and the 
danger of delay increased. Alas ! what was it to 
him ? What was now the whole world, compared 
to the peace of the heart that he loved, and that, 
through his means, had been filled with despair ? 
He would have given all, — his pride of fame, his 
hope of station, and aspirations of glory, — to have 
but for one instant held the form of Melanthe 
to his breast, and whispered the words, " I have 
not deceived thee !^ 

The thought of her contempt was more bitter 
than the anguish of her loss, and with a heart 
bursting with sorrow, Montesecco turned to depart. 
Taking from his bosom the tablets of vellum which 
he always carried, he wrote upon one of them these 
words : — *" The tale thou hast heard is false ! 



MELANTHE. 131 

Melanthe, be faithful — be firm — we shall meet 
again !^ 

Few people in those days, save the Priests and 
the highest of the nobles, knew how to read or write, 
and therefore without fear Montesecco gave the 
scroll into the hands of Mariana, the aged female 
who was the personal attendant of Melanthe, with 
orders not to deliver it to any one except her 
mistress. This done, he mounted his horse. One 
moment he paused, and raised his head as if to 
catch upon the air the least sound that might 
betoken a coming footsep, but all was still and 
silent ; and with a deep and bitter sigh Montesecco 
left the spot, and soon had regained the road where 
he had separated from his companions. 

And Melanthe ! could she have known the feel- 
ings with which Montesecco had again sought her 
home, what hours of misery might have been 
spared her ! Upon the first shock which the cruel 
words of Luca Pitti had occasioned, the impulse 
which was strongest in her mind was to hide herself 
if possible for ever from the gaze of Montesecco. 
Unconscious of all, except the bitterness of having 
been deceived by the person she loved, the poor 



132 MELANTHE. 

girl wandered on till weariness of body overcame 
the deep abstraction of her soul, and standing still 
for an instant, she passed her hand across her eyes, 
as if to clear away a mist that impeded her vision. 
She looked around. The spot where she found 
herself was strange to her. She had wandered many 
miles from Rome; and though she knew, by the faint 
crimson streak that tinged the heavens, that the time 
of sunset was past, and that the outskirts of the city 
were dangerous, not a shadow of fear entered the 
bosom of Melanthe. 

Absorbed by one idea, which seemed to scorch 
her brain, her mind refused to admit a thought of 
less fearful power. But the fatigue she had under- 
gone forced her to seek repose; and turning from 
the path, she threw herself upon the bank which 
overhung the river, and which was then covered 
by low brushwood, and a few stunted trees. Under 
one of these, which stood nearest to the water, 
Melanthe seated herself, and clasping her hands 
upon her knees, her eyes rested upon the deep 
waves of the Tiber as they rolled rapidly past. It 
a})peared as though she counted them, so still and 
stedfast was her gaze ; but she saw them not. Silent, 



MELANTHE. 133 

and as if frozen by the misery within her breast, 
she continued to sit ; and when, at last, as if with 
returning consciousness, she raised her head and 
looked above, the moon was high in the heavens, 
and the light of the gentle stars shone down meekly 
and reproachfully upon the struggle of human pride 
and passion. The soft beauty of the hour filled 
the breast of Melanthe with better feelings, and 
thoughts that had sprung to life from the torture 
she had lately endured, waned and faded, as she 
lifted her mind beyond the earth, with that glorious 
elevation of spirit which ever reminds us that a 
divine essence is mingled with our mortal clay. 
Sinking upon her knees, she raised her clasped 
hands to heaven, and as she prayed for comfort 
and support beneath her first hard trial, tears, 
which during the long day had not passed her 
strained and scorching eye-lids, poured upon her 
cheek. It was sad and touching, to behold the grief 
of that young heart, shrinking almost from itself 
under the blight of its early hope; and meekly 
pouring out its sorrow to Him, who alone could 
know its bitterness and its depth ! Sharp was the 
pang with which Melanthe tried to tear from her 



134 MELAXTHE. 

bosom tlie feeling which still lingered there, and 
long, and fervently did she pray ; and when she 
arose from her knees, her spirit was more calm. 
The first grief subdued, her naturally firm mind 
gradually recovered its tone, and the sense of the 
folly and impropriety of her having so long 
absented herself from her home rushed to her 
mind. She immediately turned to retrace her 
steps ; and following the course of the river, 
she had not proceeded far ere she was met by 
Gennaro. The poor boy had followed her, and 
been a mute spectator of her despondency and 
distress; but such was the innate delicacy of 
spirit with which his affection towards her filled 
his breast, that, like a faithful dog, he was con- 
tented to watch over her, and claim no other 
reward than a look, or a word of kindness ! 



CHAPTER XV. 

Scarcely had the sound of the footsteps of the 
horse which bore Montesecco in his journey, died 
upon the ear of Mariana, ere she had broken the 
promise she had given ; and with Stefano, the old 
man who filled the office of gardener and porter in 
the household of Hassan, was seated in the open 
porch of the dwelling, and by the light of a small 
lamp which stood upon the table, studiously en- 
deavouring to decipher the meaning of the few 
words which Montesecco had traced upon the scroll, 
which he had delivered to her with so many injunc- 
tions of care and secrecy. In point of care, no one 
was more trustworthy than Mariana; but secrecy 
was a virtue, which, with her garrulous propen- 
sities, could not be expected. It is true that so 
far she obeyed the behest of Montesecco, that from 
the body of the household she concealed the fact of 
a document so precious being in her possession; 



136 MELANTHE. 

but not to impart to a single soul the suspicions 
she entertained, the hopes that she had formed, 
and the symptoms she had observed, was an effort 
of moral courage, to which poor Mariana was 
totally unequal. Having brought out from her 
stores some wine which she knew to be a particular 
favourite with Stefano, she placed the jug before 
him. Then, seating herself, and leaning her hands 
forward to encircle the lamp, she held the scroll in 
every possible direction, in the hope that by some 
accident she might discover the meaning of words, 
of which she could not read a single letter. 

" Well — it is very extraordinary,"' she at length 
exclaimed, " that people will write in such a man- 
ner that one cannot make it out." 

" It would be still more extraordinary if you 
could,'' observed Stefano, " as you do not happen 
to know how to read." 

" I not know how to read !" rejoined Mariana, 
sharply . 

" Not a whit better than myself, and I am sure 
I should not know whether the letters were turned 
upside down or not," replied Stefano, meekly at- 
tempting, by a confession of his own ignorance, to 



i 



MELANTHE. 137 

subdue the curiosity which he knew always raged 
in the bosom of Mariana at the bare possibility of 
discovering a secret. " And besides, if we did, 
you surely would not betray the confidence reposed 
in you by reading the letters of the Signora."' 

" Letters ! oh, that might be a different thing ; 
but a scroll — an open tablet — a bit of vellum — 
surely there can be no secret of importance upon 
such a thing as that ;" and she held up the writing 
in the face of Stefano, as if to enforce her argument. 

'• If there were no secret, you would not be so 
anxious to find out the meaning of the words," said 
Stefano, who, though the chosen friend and con- 
fidant of Mariano, always delighted in mortifying 
or annoying her — a habit not peculiar to Stefano. 

" And after all, what can it be to you ?" 

" What can it be to me ?'^ asked Mariana ; 
" why, who should it be any thing to except to 
me, I should be glad to know. Am I not the 
Signora Melanthe's nurse ? Did not these arms 
receive her the very first day she landed at Naples ? 
Oh ! that was a day ; I think I see it all still before 
my eyes. All the poor wretches landing from the 
ships that had saved them from the cruel Turks ! 



138 MELANTHE. 

There they came, hurrying out of the boats as if 
the Turks were at their heels ; and when they found 
themselves on dry land, oh ! to see how they knelt 
and prayed. And some wept, and some danced 
for joy — and some stood quite still, and looked so 
piteously around; for they were alone — they had lost 
all ; women their husbands, children their fathers ! 
Ah ! the poor children ! that was the saddest sight 
of all. When our good master, Hassan, came past 
with an infant in his arms, a pretty smiling thing, 
I looked at it and blessed it ; and then he turned 
to me and said, ' Good woman, if you are a mother, 
take pity on this child.' I was a mother, or rather, 
I had been," continued Mariana, sobbing, " for 
my sweet child was in its grave, and I took pity 
on that of the stranger. The Holy Virgin forgive 
me, but I thhik I loved it soon as well as my own 
poor little Ginevra, who is with the angels in 
heaven. Since then, have I not been a mother to 
her ? My beautiful Signora ; and our master says 
she is a great lady, and will one day have her 
rights. Ah ! well, that will be a blessed day ; and 
she will not forget her poor Mariana."" 

" That I am sure she will not ; she deserves to 



MELANTHE. 139 

be a queen — the good Signora ; she always praises 
my flowers, and gives me a new doublet twice a- 
year,'" said Stefano, warmly. 

" But see, Mariana, the jug is empty," and he 
held up the wine jug, to show that he spake the 
truth. 

" Well, well, wait a moment," replied Mariana, 
who was again busy examining the scroll. " But 
is the lamp going out, or the moon, that it is so 
dark, all in a moment ?" and she turned abruptly 

towards the entrance of the porch A shadow, 

light and rapid as the summer cloud throws upon 
the waving grass, seemed to pass over the bed of 
flowers between the porch and a large tulip tree, 
which stood in advance of the group nearest the 
house ; but Mariana, whose sight was rather dim, 
could not discern further. 

" Now, my good Mariana, one more cup ere the 
Signora returns,'' said Stefano ; " I wonder what 
keeps her out so late." 

" Oh ! she is fond of the moonlight," said 
Mariana quickly ; for though secretly resolved to 
lecture Melanthe for her midnight ramble, she 
could not bear that any one else should venture to 



140 MELANTHE. 

find fault with her. " And Gennaro is with her, 
so there can be no fear.'' 

" Then a little more wine, I pray you,'' urged 
Stefano. " This watching is weary work ; " and 
he stretched himself out at full length upon the 
seat, supporting his head upon the table. 

" Now, do not go to sleep," said Mariana, " and 
leave me here all alone." 

" No, no, good Mariana — fetch the wine, and 
you will find me wakeful enough, even to read the 
cavalier's letter," replied Stefano laughing, and 
settling himself still more comfortably. 

" Ah ! the scroll," said Mariana ; and as if 
recollecting its importance, she placed it carefully 
in the middle of the table ; and recommending 
Stefano not to touch it, took up the jug, and went 
towards the house for a fresh supply of wine. 

But that which Stefano had already drunk was 
quite sufficient to overpower his not very acute 
faculties, and in a short time he was fast asleep. 
Then once more across the broad stream of light 
that the moon threw upon the ground in front of 
the porch, trembled and flitted a shadow without 
shape or distinctness — a shadow that came and 



MELANTHE. 141 

went as though the branches of the tulip tree were 
stirred. For a moment it vanished, and then again 
appeared more distinct, till at length it increased to 
a height almost gigantic, moving along with slow 
and measured pace towards the house. At the same 
time the grating of a footstep 'upon the gravel 
might have been heard ; and a moment afterwards 
a solitary figure, whose frock and cowl and sandalled 
feet bespoke the sanctity of its calling, slowly 
emerged from the shade. At this unwonted hour, 
what errand of charity or deed of mercy can have 
summoned the holy father from his cell ? Is it to 
shrive some passing soul — to calm the terrors of a 
death-bed by his holy words, or to listen to the 
deep-drawn sigh with which some poor penitent 
struggles to gasp out his confession, that the 
minister of peace wends his noiseless way to the 
dwelling of Hassan ? Alas ! it is none of these. 
In all ages, too often has the garb of religion served 
as a shelter to the hypocrite ; and too often had the 
base and profligate Cardinal profited by the dis- 
guise his holy calling afforded, to forward his 
infamous schemes. 

Beneath the robe of a mendicant friar, Roderigo 



142 MELANTHE. 

Borgia now crept as a cowardly spy to the house 
of Hassan. The vigilance of his emissaries had 
-jiot failed to detect and inform him of the return 
of Montesecco, his subsequent departure, and the 
prolonged absence of Melanthe from her home. 
The passion he had long since conceived for her 
had lately increased almost to frenzy, which he 
found it impossible to control ; and the unexpected 
obstacle which had arisen in his path by the 
discovery of the love of Montesecco, had nearly 
deprived the cautious Cardinal of his habitual 
prudence and cunning. 

The first object of Borgia was, if possible, to 
discover what had been the conduct of Montesecco 
during his hurried visit ; and determining not to 
trust to any one but himself, he had wrapped him- 
self in the disguise, in which, as her confessor, 
during her residence at the convent, he had been 
in the habit of visiting Melanthe, and hastened to 
take the best position he could obtain close to the 
house of Hassan, intending, if no other opportunity 
offered, to enter it as a poor travelling friar, and 
ask for hospitality for the night. Chance, however, 
favoured his views in a manner for which he had 



MELANTHE. 143 

scarcely dared to hope. Every word uttered by 
Mariana had been distinctly heard by him, and 
only one step was wanting to grasp the prize he 
expected would contain full information of the 
future plans and intentions of Montesecco. 

It was an anxious moment, as the Cardinal crept 
to the porch. His weight caused the gravel upon 
which he trod to sink and crackle, and more than 
once he paused without daring to advance his foot, 
lest the sound might disturb the slumber of Stefano. 
At length, he gained the entrance, and stood upon 
the marble floor ; the lamp still burned, and threw 
its light upon the small white tablet which the 
designs of Borgia had made so precious in his eyes. 
Never did the hand of a miser clutch his gold with 
a more eager grasp than did the irreverent hand of 
the Cardinal seize upon those few words of love, 
which had been the only solace of the writer, and 
would have been a mine of wealth to her for whose 
eye they had been intended. Scarcely had success 
crowned the dastardly act of Borgia, when the 
sound of approaching steps warned him to depart ; 
and springing from where he stood, he was soon 
lost in the shadow of the trees. A moment after- 



144 MELANTHE. 

wards Mariana returned to the porch ; and before 
she could effectually rouse Stefano from his slum- 
bers, Melanthe, accompanied by Gennaro, stood 
once more by her side. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

With ill-concealed delight, Melanthe listened 
to the news of the visit of Montesecco. Again 
and again she made Mariana repeat the man- 
ner of his arrival — the hour — the very minute; 
and bitterly now did she regret the waywardness 
of spirit which had kept her from her home. The 
disappointment of Montesecco weighed more upon 
her heart than did her own sorrow ; for, acquitting 
him instantly of any wish to deceive her, she knew 
how great must have been his suffering at not 
being able to explain to her the true meaning of 
the cruel words of Luca Pitti. 

" Did he leave no message ?" she asked, having, 
by her hurried questions, so bewildered the facul- 
ties of Mariana, as to render her utterly incapable 
of recollecting half of what she might otherwise 
have done. 

VOL. II. H 



146 MELANTHE. 

" None, that I can remember,'' replied the nurse, 
putting her hand to her forehead. 

" What ! not one word, to say when he would 
return ?"" said Melanthe ; " he might have writ- 
ten---" 

" Written,'' interrupted Mariana ; " Oh, Santa 
Madonna, that I should have forgotten it — he did 
write " 

" Where — where is the letter ?" exclaimed Me- 
lanthe. 

" Letter, there was no letter ; only a tablet — 
an open scroll." 

" Open ?" said Melanthe, in a tone of dis- 
appointment, for her heart had, for the instant, 
revelled in the idea of the first letter addressed 
to her by him she loved. 

" Yes, open. The Signora knows poor Mariana 
cannot read ; and if she could have done so, would 
not the secret have been safe with her ? The silence 
and discretion of IMariana " 

" Yes — yes — I know," interrupted Melanthe ; 
" but, good nurse, dear nurse, the letter .^" 

" Nay, I tell thee it was a scroll." 

" Well, well, then, the scroll — but give it me — 



MELANTHE. 147 

where hast thou put it ? Is it in thy boddice — or 
thy vest? Where — where is it?" and Melanthe 
began rapidly to examine the many folds of the 
ample black dress of Mariana. 

" Nay, child, have patience ; you do hurry me 
so. I remember now, I laid it on the table in the 
porch. Come with me — you shall see it;" and 
Mariana turned from the room which they had 
entered upon the arrival of Melanthe, and, accom- 
panied by her and Gennaro, sought the porch, 
where they found Stefano still fast asleep, the 
lamp burning, but the scroll had disappeared. 

" Where can it be ?" exclaimed Mariana. " I 
laid it here, close beside the lamp. Get up, you 
lazy old creature," she added, at the same time 
shaking Stefano by his arm. 

" More wine," said the suddenly aroused gar- 
dener. 

" Wine ! you have had too much already, — 
where is the tablet I laid here, by the lamp ?" 

" Lamp .'*" echoed Stefano, who was only half 
awake. 

*' There is the lamp. Corpo di Bacco! cannot 



148 MELANTHE. 

you see it and the wine jug ?" and he seized upon 
the latter, as if about to carry it to his mouth. 

" No, no, my good Stefano," said the soft voice 
of Melanthe; " we want a letter— some writing — 
that was placed by the lamp/' 

" Ah ! the Signora returned,"" said Stefano, 
rising, and trying to recover his senses, so as to 
recollect exactly what had happened. " Yes, I 
remember, Mariana was trying to read it, and I 
said---" 

" Bestia — Bestia maledetta !" cried Mariana, in 
no gentle tone, at the same time shaking Stefano 
by the shoulders ; " who wants to know what you 
said ? What have you done with the scroll ?" 

" I done with it ! why, I never saw it since "" 

" Now, the sweet saints grant me patience,"" 
exclaimed Mariana ; " he never saw it. Look here, 
Signora ; look here, my child ; before I went to 
fetch that jug of wine, I placed the writing there, 
on that spot ;"" and Mariana laid her hand on the 
table ; " the lamp there, and that useless incum- 
brance of a man there, upon the bench."" 

" No, I placed myself," began Stefano. 



MELANTHE. 149 

" Peace, fool ! plague that thou art. It was ill 
enough done, whoever placed thee where common 
sense was wanting,'"* cried Mariana, angrily. 

" Now, Signora ! could the scroll hav^e gone from 
the table without hands ?" 

" Did you see any one enter ?" said Melanthe, 
calmly, without replying to the question of her 
nurse. 

" No one, Signora." 

" And have you not got it, think you, in your 
dress ?'' suggested Melanthe, whose heart was sink- 
ing as she beheld the overthrow of her dearest hope. 

" Certainly not,'' said Stefano, beginning to 
untie his doublet ; then suddenly pausing, " how 
could I have taken it, when I was fast asleep before 
Mariana would fetch me a drop of wine ? The 
last thing I remember was hearing her grumbling 
voice, and seeing that tulip tree nodding at me, 
with its broad leaves wrapped about it like the 
good Father Anselmo's frock." 

Melanthe started, as the name of the priest fell 
upon her ear ; but Gennaro, who had been atten- 
tively watching v/hat was to him a pantomime, 
seized the lamp, and following an idea which 



150 



MELANTHE. 



appeared to have suddenly struck him, lowered the 
light to within a few inches of the ground ; and 
taking his course in the direction in which Stefano 
had pointed, he carefully examined the dewy sur- 
face of the grass, as well as the soft gravel in front 
of the porch. From the gestures of Mariana, he 
had perfectly understood that something had been 
lost, which was an object of interest to Melanthe, 
and that Stefano was accused, although innocent. 
The habitual watchfulness of Gennaro immediately 
suggested the idea that some other person had been 
present ; and no sooner did he observe the attention 
of Melanthe directed to the dark grove of trees 
which so nearly approached the house, than he 
resolved to ascertain whether any one had passed 
that way since the evening. For some time he 
could not discover any thing ; but at last he came 
to a small open portion of the grass, upon which 
the mark of a sandalled foot was heavily impressed. 
The close green sward, saturated with dew, retained 
even the crossed lines formed by the leathern thongs 
with which the monks fastened on their sandals; 
and Melanthe^ as she followed the invitation of 
Gennaro, and looked upon the discovery he had 



MELANTHE. 151 

made, too. plainly read the secret which was con- 
cealed from the mind of her companions. Making 
a sign to Gennaro to desist from his search, and 
smiling to convince him that what she had lost was 
of little value, she bade Mariana carry the lamp to 
her apartment, and turning to Stefano, she said, 
" Has Padre Anselmo been here to-day ?"' 

" He came at sunset past the gate, to give his 
blessing to poor Domenico, who lies sick on the 
other side of the street, and just looked in, to ask if 
our master had returned." 

" And you told him he was still absent ?'^ 
" I said the house was empty, for the Signora 
had gone out ; and then he asked if you were 
alone ?" 

" And what answer did you give ?" 
" That the Signor Gennaro was with you." 
" 'Tis well. Should the Holy Father inquire 
for me again, bid him seek me at the Convent ; and, 
till the return of Hassan, see thou that no stranger 
passes within the gates." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Many days had elapsed, and yet Hassan had not 
returned ; and at length, yielding, to the prayers 
of Clarice, Melanthe consented to become an inmate 
of the Orsini palace. Very different was the scene 
which its interior presented to the solitary and 
anxious hours she had lately passed in the seclusion 
of the dwelling of Hassan ; for so great had been 
her fear of meeting the Cardinal, who, under the 
disguise of a Franciscan friar, constantly beset her 
path, that she had not ventured to leave the house. 

The tranquillity of her mind had in some degree 
returned, and so implicit was her trust in the 
honour of Montesecco, that, from the time she heard 
of his having returned to seek her, her mind had 
been relieved of the horrible oppression under which 
it had writhed from a suspicion of his integrity. 
Could he not have met her eye with an unblushing 
brow, she knew he would not have returned. She 



MELANTHE. 153 

knew it ; and, as her mind dwelt upon the fact, 
her heart swelled with pride in him whom she loved ; 
and whom she had so honoured, that, to believe 
him guilty of a falsehood, had bowed her to tlie 
earth. 

There is no anguish equal to that of being forced 
to condemn the beino: that w^e love. It is a feelin^: 
which, like most others, is not unmixed with self- 
love. Pity for the guilty, joins with regret and 
almost shame, that ^ve could liave been thus de- 
ceived, and so far blinded, as to waste a pure feel- 
ing upon one who has proved his unworthiness of 
so great a blessing. The dearest glory of woman's 
heart is the moral excellence of its idol. It is a 
part of the wild worship she delights to pay, and 
which differs widely from the nature of that which 
she is accustomed to receive. 

The heart of Melanthe was peculiarly formed 
for the devotion of affection ; and the certainty 
that she had not been deceived in the high honour 
of Montesecco, was so consoling, that she resolved to 
endure with fortitude the separation which, before 
her mind had been assailed by its late disquietude, 
H 5 



154 MELANTHE. 

had appeared a sorrow too deep for calm contem- 
plation. Her anxiety with regard to the journey of 
Hassan daily increased. His hope that in one of 
the many monastic institutions with which the north 
of Italy abounded, Elphenor should have sought 
a shelter, had been so often disappointed, that 
Melanthe scarcely dared to encourage a sanguine 
feeling as to his present success. Yet at times so 
persuaded had she been by the assertions of Hassan 
that her father still lived, and was even in the 
neighbourhood of Rome, that she had more than 
once, when chance had led her abroad, forgotten all 
other objects in the fancied resemblance she had 
traced to Elphenor in some individual present. 

But vain had hitherto been all the researches 
which the devotion of Hassan, or the filial affec- 
tions of Melanthe, led them to attempt. Nothing 
certain had been discovered, except that, in the 
general massacre of the Greeks, upon the sacking 
of Constantinople, Elphenor had not perished, but, 
with many others of his country, had found a 
refuge in Italy. There almost all the learned 
Greeks had retired into monasteries ; and the con- 



MELANTHE. 155 

stant habit of changing their name, to which fear 
had led them in the first moment of their escape, 
i-edoubled the difficulty of tracing an individual, 
who, having no interest in the country of his 
adoption, chose rather to consult his own safety by 
remaining unknown, than to gratify the curiosity 
of strangers by revealing his former name and 
history. Still, unchecked by disappointment, 
Hassan persisted in his inquiries, and his present 
absence was caused by intelligence, which had been 
mysteriously conveyed to him, that the dwelling of 
Elphenor had been discovered in a monastery at 
some distance in the Appennines. Hassan, attended 
only by two servants, had immediately set out upon 
his journey ; yet when day after day elapsed, 
bringing no tidings of his return, Melanthe listened 
to the entreaty of Clarice that she would no longer 
seclude herself, but join in the gaieties which the 
sojourn of Lorenzo de' Medici had now rendered 
almost habitual to the Orsini palace. 

" And you will confess," said Clarice to her 
friend one day, when they were preparing to attend 
a festival given in their honour by a noble of the 
Orsini family, " that the life you lead here is rather 



156 MELANTHE. 

better than that which I liad so much difficulty in 
persuading you to abandon.'^ 

" If not better, at least it is more amusing," 
replied Melanthe, " than sitting all day alone.'' 

" Well, I am glad you own that,'' said Clarice. 
" As for me, now I have seen what a gay life in 
the city is, I only wonder how I could have endured 
the monotony of our convent." 

" And yet, do you remember how sorry you 
were to leave it ?" observed Melanthe ; " and how 
bitterly you lamented having to return home to 
do the honours of your house to your Florentine 
guests ?" 

" Ah ! that was because I did not know anything 
about him — about them I mean," answered Clarice, 
who, as she corrected herself, blushed deeply. INIe- 
lanthe smiled, on observing the heightened colour of 
her friend ; and then she sighed, for a remembrance 
of her own sorrow and her love made her tremble 
at the least symptom of any preference shown by 
the artless and somewhat childish Clarice. 

" Do you know," said the latter, " that I have a 
strong suspicion that Lorenzo and the Cardinal are 
not on such good terms as they were .^" 



MELANTHE. 157 

" What Cardinal?"' asked Melanthe, surprised 
at the observation of her friend. 

" Why the Borgia, of course. There is but one 
Cardinal worth looking at,*" replied Clarice. 

" Why should you think so ?"' inquired Me- 
lanthe, carelessly. 

" Oh, for different reasons. You remember the 
hawking party the Cardinal gave us last week. 
Well, I overheard him muttering to himself as you 
rode past with Lorenzo — ' Insolence ! these citizen 
princes would engross all :' and several other things 
of the same sort. And then again, when Lorenzo 
had given you the green and silver brocade, for 
which he had sent to Florence on your admiring 
some that you had seen, the Cardinal happened to 
be present, when you went down to the great hall ; 
he was passing through to my father's apartment, 
and you did not see him ; but I did, and never did 
I see a man look so furiously as when you stood 
upon the steps, and held out your hand to Lorenzo, 
who bent his knee as he kissed your fingers." 

" And so, from such trifles you imagine some 
quarrel has taken place ?'"* 

" Not exactly a quarrel ; but I am sure they do 



158 MELANTHE. 

not like each other. Not that Lorenzo told me, 
for he never speaks seriously to me as he does to 
you,^' said Clarice simply, and her eyes filled with 
tears as she spoke. 

" Dearest, remember I am much older, and more 
grave," replied Melanthe, fondly drawing the 
beautiful head of Clarice to her bosom. " He 
knows, too, the deep anxiety I suffer from the 
uncertainty of my poor father's fate."" 

*' Is that all that has made you so anxious of 
late ?" asked Clarice, smiling archly. 

" It is enough to do so," said Melanthe, gravely. 

To confide the deep passion that filled her heart 
to the ear of another, would have been almost a 
profanation of its sublime nature. Least of all, 
to the volatile Clarice could such a mind as that of 
Melanthe look for approval or support. Tiie light 
words of her friend had, however, filled her not 
only with regret, but with alarm. Engrossed by 
her own love for Montesecco, she had scarcely 
marked the progress of an affection which had 
sprung up in the bosom of Lorenzo de' Medici 
towards herself. As Clarice had said, " He never 
spoke seriously to her ;" with Melanthe he not 



MELANTHE. 159 

only spoke, but thought. In all the excursions 
which he delighted to make in the neighbourhood 
of Rome, in search of the many treasures of anti- 
quity with which it abounded, it was ever to 
Melanthe that the observations and reflections of 
Lorenzo were addressed. When the memory of 
the past took the place of the interests of the pre- 
sent, it was to her comprehensive mind that his 
allusions or inquiries were submitted ; while, to- 
wards Clarice, a more common-place gallantry 
marked his attentions. The sympathetic attraction 
of two minds so elevated beyond the common range 
of intellect, had been almost instantaneous. 

Among all the proud daughters of Rome, who 
sighed for liis notice and regard, Lorenzo had 
found none who sufficiently interested his thoughts 
to make him consider whether, in his position, it 
were justifiable to lay his homage at her feet. But 
Melanthe, once seen and known, was a being not 
to be forgotten ; and before many days had been 
passed in her company, Lorenzo had decided that 
no care or sacrifice, on his part, should be wanting 
to gain her affections, and induce her to become 
his wife. No thought of his power and his wealth 



160 MELANTIIE. 

ever suggested itself as offering any security towards 
the attainment of the object he had in view. To 
Melanthe, he knew all would be comparatively 
indifferent, save the intellect and high character of 
him to whom she gave her heart — that heart, how 
did Lorenzo sigh for its possession. 

Lorenzo liad not passed his one-and-twentieth 
year ; and yet the violence of the love with which 
Melanthe had inspired him, had changed the whole 
current of his thoughts ; and he looked forward 
with aversion to the grandeur with which the 
future would invest him, as he contemplated the 
possibility of his suit being unsuccessful. He 
thought of the long years during which he might 
be doomed to drag out an existence, only relieved 
from the cares of state by the society of one to whom 
he never could be otherwise than indifferent ; for 
the powerful mind of Lorenzo might sacrifice its 
dearest hope, but to change was not in his nature ; 
and every hour that he gave to deliberation upon 
the subject, more and more confirmed the impres- 
sion he had received. 

Many weeks had passed since he had enjoyed, 
almost without interruption, the society he so much 



MELANTHE. 161 

prized, and yet he had never dared to hazard a 
declaration of his affection to Melanthe. Pier 
manner was so calm, so dignified in its kindness 
towards all, that Lorenzo scarcely ventured to 
imagine that it varied towards himself. It was 
true his society appeared to interest her ; it was 
true, that, to hear his opinion, she would fre- 
quently pause while engaged in conversation with 
others ; and more than once, he had felt his heart 
beat wildly as he marked the uplifted head and 
parted lips of Melanthe, as she turned, and he 
fancied with interest, to listen to his words. Then 
how they seemed to expire ere his voice could give 
them utterance — then how his wonted confidence 
would fly from him ; and he, who would fearlessly 
have stemmed the course of thousands by the tor- 
rent of his eloquence, now faltered before the eye 
of a young and gentle girl. 

But Melanthe did not perceive it. Too much 
engrossed by her own feelings, she had lost the 
tact and instinct by which a woman, unshackled 
by her affections, can trace the windings of those 
of another, ere he himself is conscious of their 
existence. Montesecco, the soldier of fortune — the 



162 MELANTHE. 

wanderer without a name, was the idol to which 
every hope of Melanthe was turned. The earth 
held no other wealth for her. What were the 
palaces of the Medici ? Her heart was with the 
homeless and the poor. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

The return of Hassan being still delayed, 
M elan the, whose fears had been soothed by the 
arrival of a message, announcino^ his intended 
journey to a more distant part of the country, 
remained an inmate of the Orsini Palace; and 
Lorenzo, whose stay in Rome was now drawing to 
a close, still hung upon her every accent, and 
watched her steps with a solicitude which had 
become apparent to every one save the object of it. 
As his love increased, so did the terrible fear which 
had taken possession of his mind. The indifference 
of Melanthe filled his heart with sorrow, but still 
he persevered in his attentions ; for each hour he 
felt more deeply that to resign all hopes of her 
affection was an effort almost beyond his strength. 
Every thought was engrossed by the love with 
which she had inspired him ; and he scarcely dared 



164 MELANTHE. 

to confess to himself the distaste with which he 
now regarded the objects, which before had seemed 
to him of paramount importance. 

The negotiation of several points of interest to 
Florence was suspended — all subjects of grave 
meditation dismissed from his mind ; and even the 
attractions of art neglected, unless when enhanced 
by the smile of IVIelanthe. If she approved, then 
all glowed with the bright colouring of love ; and 
without her opinion, Lorenzo soon found it impos- 
sible to decide upon any thing. 

One of the motives of the journey of Lorenzo 
to Rome had been the desire of enriching his native 
city with all that was most valuable in works of art; 
and since his arrival he had expended enormous 
sums in the collection of the finest pictures, statues, 
and gems of all kinds with which Rome abounded ; 
but which were comparatively little appreciated by 
those who had groaned under the servitude of the 
late Pope, the professed foe of literature and artists. 
With what pleasure did Lorenzo contemplate the 
magnificent collection which daily increased. Each 
object tended to recal some happy day on which 
the taste and judgment of Melanthe had been con- 



MFLANTHE. 1()5 

suited ; and the hours thus spent Lorenzo now felt 
had been the happiest he had ever known. 

How sad is the reflection that our sweetest visions 
of bliss are generally in the past ! Too soon, 
Lorenzo proved the bitterness of this truth. For 
many days a presentiment of evil had hung over 
his mind. Perhaps it was that mystic influence 
which our thoughts sometimes appear to exercise on 
all around us ; or perhaps it was, that Melanthe had 
discovered the true nature of sentiments which filled 
his breast ; but Lorenzo fancied that a sudden chill 
had fallen upon each inmate of the palace, and that 
more particularly Melanthe sought to avoid all 
conversation with him. Clarice, whose ill-disguised 
preference had scarcely been noticed by him, now 
attracted his attention by her troubled and hurried 
manner whenever he addressed her. Her father, 
Jacopo Orsini, appeared suddenly changed ; and 
from being wrapped up in his own consequence, 
now watched every movement and word of Lorenzo 
with a cringing servility ; and Melanthe — oh ! too 
surely Melanthe was no longer the same. Instead 
of the frank and gracious smile with which she 
used to meet him, he saw, with despair, a look of 



166 MELANTHE. 

measured civility, instead of the kind and friendly 
greeting, words of form and coldness met his ear. 
The change was too sudden — too cruel, — and the 
prudence of Lorenzo gave way. He decided at 
once to know the worst — he would know wherefore 
the little favour she had hitherto bestowed upon 
him was thus suddenly withdrawn ; and should it 
prove that indifference to a passion he felt he had 
latterly but ill concealed was the cause, he would 
instantly leave Rome. 

Scarcely had he come to this determination, than 
the mystery which had urged him to its adoption 
was cleared up. A messenger from Florence 
brought letters from Piero, announcing the start- 
ling fact of his having already commenced negotia- 
tions with Jacopo Orsini, for a marriage between 
Clarice and Lorenzo. The consent of Jacopo had 
been obtained, and it only remained now for Lorenzo 
to submit to the mandate, which forced upon him 
an alliance which he had never even contemplated 
as possible. The surprise with which he continued 
to gaze upon the words which thus annihilated all 
hope in his bosom, almost prevented his under- 
standing their full meaning. 



MELANTHE. 167 

Too soon the full misery of his position became 
apparent. The habit of contracting persons who 
had never perhaps seen each other, was one of too 
common occurrence in that age to excite any sur- 
prise in the bosom of Lorenzo. He knew that in 
his position he belonged to the state ; and an alli- 
ance with the Orsini was a matter of too much 
importance to Florence to be overlooked. It at 
once established the power of the Medici in the 
very heart of Rome ; and Lorenzo, as his mind 
rapidly glanced towards the future difficulties in 
which any objection on his part must involve his 
country, felt his heart sicken as he reflected that 
perhaps the sacrifice, upon which he instantly deter- 
mined, might not be appreciated by her for whose 
sake it would be made. His high sense of honour, 
fully as strongly as his affection, forbade him to 
yield obedience to a mandate, to which otherwise 
he would have bowed. How often had he ex- 
pressed his readiness to sacrifice himself for his 
country ! 

In the full confidence of the willing obedience 
of his son, Piero had proposed the alliance to 
Jacopo Orsini. Lorenzo felt this ; and yet he was 



168 MELAXTHE. 

about to disappoint the hopes of a parent he loved. 
It was a bitter thought, but one which weighed 
almost less upon his mind than the fearful political 
consequences which a slight towards the proud race 
of the Orsini might one day entail upon Florence. 
The love of his country — of his native city, was 
almost more powerful than the affection he felt 
towards his father : but his love for Melanthe was 
far above either ; and scarcely an hour had elapsed 
since he had received the letter, which threatened 
to be so fatal to his happiness, ere he sought her 
presence. 

Melanthe was seated in an alcove at the bottom 
of the garden of the Orsini palace; and at the 
moment that the hurried step of Lorenzo brought 
him near the spot where she usually passed the 
mornings, it appeared as though she was occupied 
in drawing. A group of exquisite beauty was the 
model before her ; it was one of the choice relics of 
ancient sculpture which formed part of the collec- 
tion of Lorenzo, and which had particularly 
attracted the attention and admiraticm of Melanthe. 
A few days before it had been a subject of common 
interest to them both ; and now, as the eye of 



MELANTHE. 



189 



Lorenzo rested for a moment upon it, a pang shot 
through his heart, as he remembered the comparative 
happiness of that hour, when the beauty and grace 
of the figures, and the exquisite skill of the work- 
manship, had been the theme of their conversation. 
He paused at a little distance, to gaze upon the yet 
more beautiful form of Melanthe, and then per- 
ceived, what, in the hurry of the first glance he 
had not observed, that the marble was not more 
motionless than the being who gazed upon it. 
With eyes distended, and lips apart, Melanthe sat 
as thouo:h she were turned to stone. Her face was 
very pale — horror was upon every feature, and she 
grasped convulsively the implements of her drawing, 
which were on the table before her. So great was 
the shock which her appearance caused to Lorenzo, 
that for the moment he forgot his own hopes and 
fears, as he sprung to her side, and entreated her to 
disclose the cause of her sorrow. Roused by the 
sound of his voice, Melanthe turned her eyes 
towards him ; but it was evident she had not heard 
his words, for in a voice hoarse from the violence 
of emotion she said, hurriedly, " You too have not 
accused me f 



VOL. II. 



170 MELANTHE. 

" Me ? Great heavens !'' exclaimed Lorenzo, 
" what can jou mean ? Accused "" 

" Yes, accused," replied Melanthe ; " accused — 
suspected — condemned — all in one little hour. 
Oh ! it is hard to bear ;" and she passed her hand 
quickly across her brow as she spoke. 

" By all that is most sacred. I conjure you to 
explain what has happened,"" said Lorenzo. 

" I cannot," replied Melanthe. 

" I implore," continued Lorenzo ; " will you not 
confide in a friend ? Who " 

" Friend," interrupted Melanthe, " I have no 
friends ;" and she threw herself back in her seat, 
and covered her face with her hands. Her attitude 
was one of such deep dejection, so different from 
her usual proud bearing, that it touched Lorenzo 
to the heart. He could not bear to see her grief — 
he would have sacrificed all, even his dearest hopes, 
to have been able to call back the smile to her lips. 
Something terrible must have occurred, though of 
what nature he could not form a conjecture. Sink- 
ing on his knee by her side, he once more conjured 
her to tell him the cause of her grief; but she 
remained silent, and gave no other sign of having 



MELANTHE. 171 

heard his words, than a slight motion of her hand, 
as if entreating him to desist from his inquiries. 
Lorenzo was not so easily silenced. 

" Hear me," he said, " and answer me only one 
word. I have not deserved this utter want of 
confidence — why am I thus forbidden to share your 
distress? Speak to me. Speak but one word — I 
will ask no more. Speak to me, or must I seek 
from others the meaning of this grief ? " 

" Oh ! no, no," exclaimed Melanthe wildly ; 
" not from others — not even from me. Leave me 
— do not seek to know more, or seem to feel for me. 
You will only draw more misery upon me. I 
am going hence," she said sadly, " and none will 
see me again. But, before we part, I will pray you 
to think kindly of me ; and if they tell you I am 
worthless — vile — degraded — as they have told me. 
Oh God ! that I should live to hear it ! do not 
believe their words." 

" Believe them !" said Lorenzo, " I would sooner 

die than doubt you. Speak to me — trust me, and 

you will see that your confidence is not misplaced." 

The manner of Lorenzo was so respectful, and 

appeared so full of truth, that Melanthe felt her 



172 MELANTHE. 

scruples give way. " I will trust you," she said. 
" A messenger has arrived from Florence." 

" Ha! how know you that?'' asked Lorenzo, 
hastil}'. 

" I do know it ; but perhaps you do not know 
that the purport of his coming is no secret to the 
owners of this palace. It is many days since 
another envoy arrived with letters from your father, 
proposing an alliance of which he only now informs 
you. This, for reasons best known to Jacopo 
Orsini, has been kept secret from you." 

" And," said Lorenzo, whose heart sunk at 
these words, " how can that affect your happiness? 
— how influence your fate .^" 

"It can — it does," replied Melanthe, solemnly. 
" Your marriage with Clarice must take place." 

" Must — oh heavens !" exclaimed Lorenzo, pas- 
sionately, " you wish it — you can speak such words 
— you who must know that my every thought is 
your's — that to please you I would resign all else. 
Melanthe, hear me — do not turn away. Will you 
not look upon me ? You know not how much 
I love you — how, from the hour that we met, I 
first admired, then loved you ; and now you bid 



MELANTHE. 173 

me — calmly bid me — wed another. Oh, unsay 
those words— do not tell me that I am nothing to 
you. I will endure — I have endured — so much — 
such torture of suspense — I did not dare to think 
that you could love me ; and yet to doubt it was 

such anguish "^ 

Lorenzo paused, overcome by his emotion ; and 
Melanthe, as she looked upon his manly sorrow, 
could not doubt the sincerity of his words. Her 
heart sunk from the bitterness of the reflection that 
the selfishness of her own love had been the cause 
of the unchecked growth of a passion which now 
revealed itself with such force ; and in the anti- 
cipation of the terrible consequences which might 
ensue from it, she felt the punishment of her im- 
prudence. One instant served for her decision ; 
and, turning to Lorenzo, she said, " Such words 

are not for me — I have no longer a heart to give."' 
" You love another .?'" exclaimed Lorenzo. 
" Yes, fervently — unalterably,'' replied Melanthe, 

solemnly. 

" Then farewell happiness ! farewell all !" said 

Lorenzo, in a tone almost inaudible. For some 

moments neither spoke ; and Melanthe, whose 



174 MELANTHE. 

regret at what had occurred was unfeigned, did not 
venture to raise her eyes towards him whom she 
felt she had so deeply injured; but she knew that 
the hand which Lorenzo, as he pronounced the 
last words, had taken and pressed to his lips, was 
now wet with his tears. 

" Forgive me, if I have deceived you,"" she said, 
gently ; " believe me, it was unintentional.'' 

" Was my love, then, so totally a matter of 
indifference to you, that you were not even aware 
of it ?" asked Lorenzo, in a voice almost choked by 
the sobs which he in vain endeavoured to repress. 

" Not so," replied Melanthe ; " but, absorbed 
by my own feelings, it was unsuspected by me ; 
and when I awoke from the dream into which a 
selfish sorrow had plunged me, it was too late. I 
had yielded to the charm of your society under the 
safeguard of another love. My feeling towards 
you could be only that of friendship ; and it was 
not until the intelligence of your being affianced to 
another reached me, that I felt that you "" 

Melanthe paused, as if unable to express the 
conviction which had followed ; and Lorenzo 
added, in a tone of sadness which forced the tears 



MELA^^THE. 175 

from her eyes, " that I loved you. Yes, Melanthe, 
I did — I do love you beyond all that words can 
express. It is not mere admiration of your beauty, 
surpassing as that is ; but in you I found every 
charm and every quality which constitutes per- 
fection : a mind of masculine energy and strength 
— an intellect comprehensive and refined, blended 
with a true feminine gentleness and modesty — 
talent without ostentation, and learning without 
pedantry — and, withal, a depth of tenderness I 
fondly hoped might have been one day my 
own ---'' 

Lorenzo ceased, for the sorrow which filled his 
heart was too overwhelming ; a sorrow, which the 
sternest reason could not master ; and for some 
moments the deep sob which burst from his breast 
alone broke the silence, and proved to Melanthe 
more deeply than words could have done, the 
strength of that love whose death struggle was so 
severe. The misery with wdiich she looked upon 
the sorrow she had caused, at first dispelled the 
agitation under which she had been previously 
suffering. How could she remember herself, while 
beholding the grief of another ; and already she 



176 MELANTHE. 

was beginning to speak words of comfort and hope 
of future peace to liim who stood by her side, when, 
as Lorenzo turned from her to conceal the bitter- 
ness of the sorrow he could not repress, the folds 
of his mantle displaced some papers upon the 
table ; and an open letter falling upon the floor, 
caught the eye of Mel an the. With a cry of pain 
she raised it from the ground, and holding it 
towards Lorenzo, bade him read the contents. 
" This will prove to you,""* she said, " that others 
too are unhappy 1 " 

Lorenzo read the letter ; it was from Clarice to 
Melanthe ; a few cold lines simply informing her 
that, by the commands of her father, she must 
consider her friendship with Melanthe at an end. 
No word of regret, no expression of affection was 
added to soften the severity of the blow. The face 
of Lorenzo was lighted up with scorn as he finished 
reading the letter. " And this is the woman you 
desire me to love ? " were the first words of reproach 
he addressed to Melanthe, as he trampled the 
writing beneath his feet. 

o 

" Oh ! do not misjudge her thus," exclaimed 
Melanthe ; " the writing is hers — but,'' and she 



MELANTHE. 177 

looked fearfully round, " the sentiments are an- 
other's. She only obeys her father's command. I 
have seen him — his mind is poisoned against me. 
That I should have enemies may appear strange ; 
but I know — I fear I have one — one too,'' she said 
in a lower voice, " whom I cannot name : he alone 
can have dared to asperse my character— to brand 
the name of Melanthe with shame. It is he, who 
has thus worked upon the mind of Jacopo to forbid 
me his house — to separate me from Clarice, from 
all my friends ; — it is he, who will take from me, one 
by one, all those who have watched over me from 
infancy — who will leave me desolate on the earth, 

that I may be reduced to no, I cannot speak 

it. Oh ! my father, where art thou ? Merciful 
heaven ! " she continued, as she sunk upon her 
knees, " if he still lives, reveal to me the place of 
his concealment ; or, if thou hast taken him to be 
amongst thy blessed saints, grant that his spirit 
may look down upon and protect his unhappv 
child !" And Melanthe, as she passionately uttered 
this prayer, burst into tears ; Avhile Lorenzo, in 
his turn, roused from the contemplation of his own 
sorrow, besought her to disclose the name of him 
I 5 



178 MELANTHE. 

whom she supposed to be the author of the calum- 
nies which had been circulated against her. This 
Melanthe firmly refused to do. Such was the 
repugnance with which the idea of Borgia filled 
her mind, that to speak his name was impossible — 
she felt as if to utter it were contamination too 
dreadful to be voluntarily incurred. 

" It would be of no avail," she replied, as Lo- 
renzo again implored her to justify herself at least 
in the eyes of Jacopo, so that he should not deny 
her the shelter of his house during the absence of 
Hassan. " So artfully have the tales been devised, 
that, in appearance at least, if not guilty, I have 
been too highly imprudent not to have incurred 
suspicion. Clarice is pure and noble, and the 
stranger—the orphan perhaps, — helpless, vilified, 
and accused, is no meet companion for the daughter 
of the Orsini."" 

As Melanthe spoke, she had drawn herself up to 
her full height, and the curled lip and flashing eye 
were so full of the expression of truth and noble 
pride, that Lorenzo looked upon her almost with 
awe. He could have knelt at her feet, as to one 
not of mortal mould ; for the recital of her mis- 



MELANTHE. 179 

fortune had rendered her more sacred than ever in 
his eyes, and restraining himself by a great effort, 
he said — 

" If such are the dangers that threaten you, the 
day may come when you may want a friend ; 
promise me, that, if such is the case, you will forget 
the presumptuous hope with which my love had 
inspired me, and that you will seek me."' 

" I will promise it," said Melanthe, unhesi- 
tatingly ; and she extended her hand to him. 

" I ask no more," said Lorenzo, in a voice of 
deep emotion. " You have said that you loved 
another ; I do not even ask his name — or whether 
it is in his power to avert the storm which gathers 
round you. I ask not if your love be happv — 
nay, do not weep— I cannot bear it. I cannot — 
dare not — look upon your grief; but Melanthe, 
ere we part, say if there is aught in which I may 
serve you ? " 

" Yes," said Melanthe, " consent to this marriage 
with Clarice." 

" Consent ! " exclaimed Lorenzo, clasping his 
hands in despair, " consent to relinquish you, and 
wed another — wliat can demand so great a sacri- 
fice?" 



180 MELANTHE. 

" My honour, and your own," said Melanthe, 
solemnly ; while this, the only allusion she would 
make to the infamous slanders which had been 
coined from the nature of her intercourse with 
Lorenzo, and her evident influence over him, dyed 
her face in blushes so deep and painful, that 
Lorenzo, in pity for her confusion, withdrew his 
gaze from her countenance, and pressing her hand 
reverently to his lips, turned away, and in another 
moment he had passed from her sight. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

That day, Melanthe quitted the Orsini palace, 
without seeking further to justify herself. In an 
interview with Jacopo, which she had demanded 
instantly upon the receipt of the letter of Clarice, 
she had indignantly refuted the calumnies heaped 
upon her, and that in a tone so fearless and con- 
vincing, that Jacopo, had he been unbiassed by 
any interest of his own, might have doubted the 
authenticity of the facts which had been represented 
to him so insidiously, as to leave little doubt of the 
culpability of the accused. Nothing had been 
omitted which could tend to criminate Melanthe ; 
and the fact of her having absented herself from 
her home in the company of Gennaro, during so 
many hours of the night, was one which, as she 
admitted it, while she refused to give any reason 
for a circumstance so unusual, strongly militated 
against her. 



182 MELANTHE. 

Poor Melanthe, how little did she imagine that 
those hours, during which she had unconsciously 
abandoned herself to the all-absorbing grief with 
which the suspicion of the faithlessness of Monte- 
secco had overwhelmed her, would one day be 
brought against her as having been devoted to 
crime. But the very fact of their being adduced as 
proof of her guilt, pointed at once to her accuser. 
She remembered too clearly all the events of that 
day — the mysterious disappearance of the scroll 
entrusted by Montesecco to Mariana — the mark 
of the footsteps in the grass, and sundry dark 
hints which had been thrown out since, whenever, 
by compulsion, she liad endured the company of 
Borgia at the palace of the Orsini — all convinced 
her that her accuser was no other than the Car- 
dinal. 

This conviction however, although important 
in relieving her mind of the fear of an unknown 
enemy, utterly annihilated any hope of establishing 
her innocence, which might otherwise have existed 
in her mind. The power of Borgia in Rome was 
absolute, his wealth unbounded, while his cunning 
and daring in execution made him a foe with 



MEL AX THE. 183 

whom it was almost impossible to cope. No atro- 
city was too great for him, if, by its perpetration, 
he could achieve the object he had in view ; and 
the unmanly cruelty with which he had destroyed 
the reputation of an innocent girl, only proved to 
Melanthe that her studied avoidance had inflamed, 
instead of subduing, the unholy passion which 
raged in his bosom. Her powerful mind had 
instantly read the mystery of the sudden accusa- 
tion preferred against her, and at once compre- 
hended the improbability that the almost fatherly 
affection with which Jacopo had formerly regarded 
her, would withstand the united influence of the 
insinuations of the Cardinal and his own anxiety 
for the union of Clarice with Lorenzo. To remove 
so formidable an impediment to his wishes as the 
presence of a rival to his daughter was a tempta- 
tion that Jacopo could not resist ; and the con- 
stant assurances of Borgia that it was against reason 
to hope for the accomplishment of a design, which 
was the dearest object of the ambition of Jacopo, 
while Melanthe remained an inmate of his palace, 
deadened any feelings of compunction which might 
otherwise have caused him to hesitate. 



184 MKLANTHE. 

Thus all conspired to deprive Melanthe of the 
possibility of refuting the calumny of which she 
was the victim ; and such was the harshness with 
which she had been treated, that, having once boldly 
asserted her innocence, she scorned to have recourse 
to persuasion, where the simple truth, which was 
so much more in accordance with her nature, had 
failed. The besetting sin of Melanthe was pride ; 
but it was pride of a lofty nature, arising more 
from the consciousness of strict integrity of purpose 
and the belief of corresponding feelings in others, 
than from any desire of personal distinction. She 
would have exacted respect, yet was indifferent to 
submission or flattery ; and when conscious that she 
was not understood or appreciated, disdained to 
lower herself to the nature of ordinary mortals. 
At the same time that she was free from self-love, 
and humble as far as she was personally concerned, 
her mind was too full of scorn for all that was 
mean or vicious for one condemned to much inter- 
course with the world. Her ideas of mankind 
being derived more from her own imagination than 
from actual experience, she had at first established 
a standard of perfection by which she judged the 



MELANTHE. 185 

world ; and it was, therefore, not surprising that 
disappointment should ensue. These romantic 
impressions had been considerably strengthened by 
the accident of her having on her first entrance 
into life been thrown into contact with two men 
so remarkable for the very qualities she admired, as 
Montesecco and Lorenzo de' Medici. Both were 
noble-minded — generous, and of highly cultivated 
intellect ; and if the heart of Melanthe had decided 
in favour of the one, she was not the less ready to 
acknowledge the merit and endowments of the 
other. 

She had yet to learn that all men were not as 
these, and too soon the vile machinations of Borgia 
had taught her suspicion. The conduct of Jacopo 
confirmed this impression, and a feeling of distrust 
sprung up in her heart, of which, till that moment, 
she would not have believed herself to have been 
capable. His cruelty aroused all the haughtiness 
of her nature. 

" Since they have condemned me, though 
innocent, I will depart in silence and in scorn of 
their injustice, and trust in heaven to clear my 



186 MELANTHE. 

name at some future day from the stain they have 
cast upon it." 

With this exclamation, Melanthe, a few minutes 
after her interview with Lorenzo, had quitted the 
Orsini palace ; and with feelings excited, by a con- 
sciousness of rectitude, to a stern dignity almost 
amounting to fierceness, she once again returned 
to the dwelling of Hassan. With what altered 
sensations did she re-enter the gates which led 
to her home — the only home she had ever known ; 
and he, to whom she owed this and all other 
blessings, how her heart swelled, as she thought of 
him, who would now return to find the child of his 
adoption driven from the house of her oldest 
friends, a desolate and degraded being ! It was a 
bitter thought; and though to Hassan alone she 
could look for support or defence, Melanthe shrunk 
from the dread of publicity to which her conduct 
would be necessarily exposed, when his anger was 
aroused against her persecutors. What, if the dread- 
ful tale should reach the ear of Montesecco ? Alas ! 
when this fear first broke upon her mind, then did 
Melanthe feel the full misery of her position. Not 



MELANTHE. 187 

that she imagined that he would believe her guilty. 
Oh, no! she was conscious that every feeling of her 
mind was too well known to him: but she recol- 
lected how she had suffered when he had been 
accused ; and the tears fell from her eyes as she 
thought of the bitter grief with which he would 
hear of the accusation against her. 

The feelings of Melanthe softened as she dwelt 
upon the image of Montesecco; and revived by 
the spirit of reliance which entered into her heart 
as she called to mind the constant devotion of his 
manner, and the fervent assurance of his love, the 
moment before their cruel separation, she felt she 
was not alone upon the earth, and resolved to 
exert all her fortitude in enduring with patience 
the sorrow that had fallen upon her. 

She hoped Hassan would soon return ; and till 
then she determined not to quit the house, which was 
now her only refuge. Soothed by these reflections, 
she drew near her home. The first object that 
met her view was the figure, of Gennaro ; and her 
heart smote her as she marked the deep dejection 
which his countenance and attitude pourtrayed. 
He did not see her as she entered the room — his 



188 MEl.ANTHE. 

eyes were vacantly turned to a window which opened 
upon the terrace above the river ; but Melanthe 
perceived that the tears which had fallen were yet 
upon his cheek, and that cheek was very pale. 
Poor boy, cut off from all communion with man- 
kind, his thoughts were too often his sole compa- 
nion, and that during her absence they had been 
sad, was now but too evident to Melanthe. She 
reproached herself with selfishness and neglect, and 
yet it had not been her fault that he had been left 
alone at the villa of Hassan ; but it was not at all 
times in her power to control the wilful spirit of 
the Greek boy. From the day she had entered 
the Orsini palace, he had resolutely refused to stir 
from his home, and pity for his infirmity generally 
caused his lightest wish to be respected. He had 
been thus left to solitude, and Melanthe, satisfied 
with continual inquiries respecting his health, had 
not returned to seek him. That he had pined in 
her absence she perceived too plainly ; and stung 
with remorse for her unkind forgetfulness, she 
resolved to atone for it by future care, and imme- 
diately crossed the room towards the spot where he 
sat, and held out her hand to him. 



MELANTHE, 180 

But she was unprepared for the violence of the 
emotion with which her presence seemed to affect 
him, and the smile vanished from her lips to give 
place to a deadly paleness, as she beheld the frantic 
joy of Gennaro, and the passionate gestures of 
delight, which, by their extravagance, too well 
expressed the grief he had suffered. 

Brought up together, and several years his 
senior, Melanthe had been too much accustomed to 
look upon Gennaro as a child , and it was not 
until she felt the burning kisses with which he 
covered her hands, and beheld the agony of joy 
which her presence occasioned, that she recollected 
the base slanders which had been circulated con- 
cerning her intimacy with him ; and the thought 
struck her that the affection of Gennaro might, 
perhaps, be of a warmer nature than she had 
imagined. She looked for a moment on the almost 
childish countenance of the boy — he was, in fact, a 
child, with all its impulses — a thing made up of 
smiles and tears — of merriment and love. She 
smiled in bitter scorn as she gazed upon him ; and 
he, mistaking the expression of her countenance, 
threw back his glossy curls, and laughed, and 



190 MELANTHE. 

again pressed the fingers of jMelanthe to his lips : 
but when he saw that she was displeased — that she 
withdrew her hand from his eager clasp, and with 
an air of gloom and coldness unusual to her, 
quitted the room without again looking towards 
him — then the brightness faded from his eyes, and 
the colour from his cheek, — he shivered. as he sat 
down in the spot which he had constantly occupied 
during her absence, and smiled no more ! 



CHAPTER XX. 

The total extinction of hope which the words of 
Melanthe had conveyed to the heart of Lorenzo, 
left to him no other line of conduct, than that of 
endeavouring, by reason, to overcome a passion 
which had taken possession of his whole being, 
to the suspension of every other faculty. It will 
scarcely be supposed that, in the mind of a man 
not yet two-and-twenty, one, who besides being an 
ardent admirer of beauty, and peculiarly capable of 
appreciating the excellence of a character like that 
of Melanthe, this was to be accomplished without 
a severe struggle. The endeavour to conceal from 
those around him the grief which he suffered, was 
the commencement of the bitter task which he now 
imposed upon himself; and so far was it attended 
with success, that to all eyes, but those of one person, 
did he appear as usual. Clarice alone beheld the 
workings of his mind. Clarice, who herself was 



192 MELAXTHE. 

full of grief — grief for the loss of her friend — grief 
for the discomforts of her own position^ affianced 
to one, whom her loving and therefore jealous heart 
told her was indifferent to her. 

Though ignorant of the interview between 
Melanthe and Lorenzo, which would exercise so 
material an influence over her own fate, Clarice had 
always been aware of the admiration of Lorenzo 
for her friend ; and while her heart lamented her 
own want of sufficient attraction, no envious or 
detractive feeling found place in her mind towards 
one whose superiority she ever gladly acknowledged. 
Clarice was devoid of talent and intellectual power. 
She might even have been denominated a com- 
mon-place character, were it not that nothing is so 
uncommon in the breast of woman, as that gentle 
feeling of kindness and admiration towards those of 
her own sex who have been more highly gifted, which 
Clarice eminently possessed. It was this feeling, so 
genuine and honourable, that alone saved her from 
the meanness of jealousy, and of triumph ; it was 
this which, while forced to obey her father, yet 
closed her heart against all belief of the slightest 
impropriety in the conduct of one, to whom she 



MELANTHE. 193 

looked as to a model of perfection ; and it was the 
kindly influence of this gentle and steady adherence 
to the friend of her childhood, that fell like balm 
upon the wounded spirit of Lorenzo, and won 
from him the first favourable opinion of the cha- 
racter of her, who thus alone stood up in defence 
of the accused. 

The most consummate art could not have de- 
vised a means which would so surely have touched 
the heart of Lorenzo, as did the simple truth of 
this young and timid girl ; and the tear that glis 
tened as she raised her eyes to those of her father, 
and then turned them towards the now vacant 
place of Melanthe, as they took their seats at the 
board, over which presided the stern and impla- 
cable Jacopo, went far to remove the actual horror 
with which Lorenzo had hitherto contemplated the 
alliance thus hastily forced upon him. But even 
this could not reconcile him to the immediate step 
which he knew he was expected to take. To be 
obliged, while his heart bled from the severity of 
the wound so lately inflicted, to smile upon another, 
to frame words of tenderness which he felt would 

VOL. II. K 



194 MELANTHE. 

expire upon his lips, and to feign an interest in 
arrangements to him replete with disgust, was an 
effort beyond his strength ; and he resolved to 
trust to time for extrication from his embarrassing 
position. The day might come when, by reflection 
and determination, he might so far subdue his 
regret as to make the sacrifice demanded of him : 
but now it was impossible — the tomb of his dearest 
hope was scarcely closed — would the ashes from its 
urn be a meet offering to a new love ? Lorenzo 
shuddered at the thought ; and Clarice, who read 
as if by intuition every feeling of his breast, with- 
drew herself yet more and more from his society 
and observation, with a delicacy for which she 
little knew how fervently Lorenzo blessed and 
admired her. 

Not so Jacopo. The silence of Lorenzo not 
only disappointed his expectation, but, from its 
continuance, assumed the appearance of an inten- 
tional slight towards the family. The pride of 
the Orsini had taken alarm. It was no uncommon 
occurrence in that age for persons to be affianced 
by their parents ; and having been informed of it. 



MELANTHE. 195 

allowed to advance or postpone the period of their 
marriage according to their own wishes, and some- 
times this was done to an indefinite time. 

In the case of Lorenzo, however, the matter was 
too important to be treated in an ordinary manner. 
Every day had Jacopo, wrapped up in his dignity, 
and inflamed with the additional importance w^hich 
the proposal of Piero de' jMedici had conferred, 
awaited a communication from Lorenzo, and looked 
forward with delight to the time when he should 
have the happiness of laying before his illustrious 
visitor proofs of the unblemished glory of the 
Orsini descent — their power, and influence in Rome ; 
the extent of their connections with foreign princes ; 
and the manifest advantage, as well as distinction, 
of obtaining the hand of the fairest daughter of 
their house. The vanity and pride of the old man 
revelled in the idea of the gratification which was 
in store for him ; and, in anticipation of the deli- 
cious moment, he laid aside his usual stateliness, 
and bowed with servile humility to every fancy 
or opinion of his new son-in-law; while secretly 
he congratulated himself on having removed the 



196 MELANTHE. 

only obstacle to his wishes by the dismissal of the 
unfortunate Melanthe. 

Still Lorenzo observed a most profound silence 
with regard (o the expected subject; and though 
so young he was a man upon whose private opinions, 
even the self-sufficient Jacopo did not deem it 
safe to intrude. Day after day he endured all 
the tortures of suspense, and the pang of wounded 
pride; and bitterly did he in secret deplore his own 
disappointment, while he saw not that the gentle 
heart of Clarice was sinking with regret, and appre- 
hension of dislike from him to whom she had secretly 
given her affections. Jacopo fancied that he loved his 
child ; and after his way he did love her. Had 
he not separated her from Melanthe, the instant 
that he was apprised of the danger of their connec- 
tion ? and now, was he not most anxious to declare 
to the whole. world her intended marriage with the 
future head of the house of Medici ? 

No wife ever pined for the return of her hus- 
band — no mother for that of her child, as did 
Jacopo for the hour when every palace in Rome 
should resound with the news of the betrothal of 



MELANTHE. 197 

Clarice and Lorenzo. More than once, he resolved 
to break through the customary usages, and him- 
self open the communication with Lorenzo ; but 
it needed only a glance towards the calm and de- 
termined brow of the young Florentine to convince 
the conscious Jacopo, that his haste would be in 
vain ; for that Lorenzo would neither be led nor 
controlled, but would act from the result of his 
own reflection. And so Jacopo, chafing with 
pride and impatience, was constrained to remain 
an inactive spectator of all that passed before him. 
One morning he was sitting in his own apart- 
ment, a prey to the irritation of disappointment, 
when he was startled by the sound of horses' feet 
and the clang of armour beneath his windows. It 
was early in the day, and at the hour when the 
great heat generally forbade all exercise of a 
military nature. The curiosity of Jacopo was 
aroused, and, rising from his sofa, he wrapped his 
loose robe of flowered silk closer round him ; and 
covering his thin grey hairs with a small velvet 
cap, he prepared to take a look into the court 
below, to satisfy himself as to what was going for- 
ward. This was, however, no easy matter. Though 



198 MELANTHE. 

his windows opened towards the enclosure, yet 
they were at some height from the ground ; and 
the palaces of the Italian nobles being at that 
time built for security, the massive wall entirely 
precluded all possibility of seeing into the court. 
Still the clamour increased; and Jacopo, who, 
like any person in constant expectation of an im- 
portant event long deferred, had grown nervously 
sensitive, and, ready to magnify the least unusual 
occurrence into one of fearful consequence, could 
not resist the anxiety which had taken possession 
of his mind to discover the cause of the more than 
ordinary bustle which reigned in the palace. 

Quitting his apartment, he hastened along a 
corridor which led to the square turret overhang- 
ing the gateway, and mounting some rude steps, 
in order to reach the loop hole, he looked down 
into the court. The vague fears which had lat- 
terly flitted across his mind, seemed now to have 
been suddenly realized ; and the thin cheek of 
Jacopo blanched as he gazed from his hiding place, 
and saw the Florentine escort which had accom- 
panied Lorenzo to Rome, ranged in front of the 
portico which led to the private apartments 



MELANTHE. 199 

assigned to him ; — not indeed arrayed for sport 
or holiday, but each soldier and war horse equipped 
in the light armour, without which the followers 
of a chief of that age never dared to travel to 
any distance. The sight appeared to freeze the 
blood of the old noble, and he stood bending down 
with his hands upon his knees, and his eyes strained 
to catch the smallest movement of the soldiers. 
From the place of his concealment he could only 
see the side of the square opposite to that upon 
which he stood ; and, to his amazement and dismay, 
in a few moments he beheld Lorenzo himself, 
also armed and equipped for a journey, descend the 
steps of the portico ; and, at a sign from one of his 
attendants, his charger was led to the spot. 

" Is it possible ? How ? — he is going And 

Clarice — and the marriage " gasped Jacopo. 

" And the Orsini — is it thus they are treated ? *" 
And the old man^s voice was choked with rage. 
" Yes, thus — and by whom ? by an upstart citizen ! 
— citizens — merchants, after all, nothing more, — 
base-born merchants — bankers — Jews ! " he ex- 
claimed, raising his voice almost to a shriek, as he 
uttered what in his impotent rage he deemed were 



200 MELANTHE. 

terms of injury. " And thus, in this churlish 
fashion — without ceremony — without leave-taking 
— after all our condescension and our care ;— butit 
is well, one could not have expected better ; it 
comes from his low estate. What are the citizens 
of Florence ? Nothing but merchants and book- 
worms. And so, he is going — well, let him go ; 

we want not his plebeian blood Ours has 

mingled with that of kings. I forgive him ; still, 
a noble had known better than thus to steal away 

without a word of grace ; but — soft "*" And 

then for the first time the anger of Jacopo seemed 
to cool, and his eye brightened ; for Lorenzo, who, 
during the furious invectives which Jacopo, smart- 
ing with disappointment, continued to heap upon 
him, had stood upon the steps apparently ready to 
mount his horse, now motioned to his attendants 
to lead back the charger within the shade of the 
opposite wall, and himself turned as if to re-enter 
the palace. 

" He comes to seek me," said Jacopo, in a shrill 
voice of delight. " After all, perhaps he is not 
going away — the marriage will be announced — all 
Rome will congratulate me — the heir of the great 



MELANTHE. 201 

house of the Medici — the son of Piero ! the grand- 
son of the illustrious Cosmo ! — the future head of 
the republic of Florence ! And he will be my son 
— the husband of Clarice ! All Europe will ring 
with the news. How the Colonnas will chafe, when 
they hear that a daughter of the Orsini has carried 
off the prize — a greater prize than most princes ; 
but I must hasten, or he will have reached my 
chamber before me. Yes, surely he comes to 
announce the marriage. Before night, his Holiness 
the Pope will have heard of it. How steep are 

these steps there — there — now let me hasten 

to meet him/' And Jacopo, who, during these 
reflections, had been cautiously descending the 
rugged stairs, up which in the excitement of his 
curiosity he had clambered without perceiving their 
extreme steepness, now drew his cap more firmly 
over his brows, and gathering up his flowing robe, 
actually ran with all the speed he could command, 
the whole length of the corridor which separated 
him from the apartment in which he expected to 
find Lorenzo. 

The compromise of dignity with interest is to 
an ordinary mind one of little difficulty ; and 
K 5 



MELANTHE. 

Jacopo, in his eagerness to secure the rich and 
powerful Lorenzo for his son-in-law, forgot, that a 
moment before he had lavished upon him and his 
family every epithet of degradation which anger 
could devise. Breathless with haste and anxiety, 
Jacopo arrived at the door of his chamber. He 
threw it open — his wishes had not deceived him — 
Lorenzo was there. His appearance, however, 
spoke not of bridal promises or of joy. His face 
was very pale ; he held an open letter, and Jacopo 
perceived that the hand which extended it towards 
him as he entered, trembled violently. Jacopo 
took the letter. The cause of all he had seen was 
soon explained. A few words from his brother 
Giuliano informed Lorenzo that his father lay at 
the point of death ; and though conjuring him to 
leave Rome without delay, yet gave but slender 
hope that he would arrive at Florence in time to 
receive in person the blessing which, by Piero's 
commands, was delivered in the letter of Giuliano. 
Jacopo folded up the letter — what a death-blow to 
his hopes ! 

" My father ! my dear father I "" was all that 
Lorenzo could say; and strugghng with the emotion 



MELANTHE. 203 

which overwhehned him, he again took the fatal 
letter, and read it over, as if in the hope that 
some more favourable construction might yet be 
put upon the words. In silence he perused it, for 
Jacopo, like all persons wholly occupied with them- 
selves, could not sufficiently control the violence of 
his disappointment to enable him to frame words 
of interest suitable to the occasion, and therefore 
wisely refrained from attempting to administer any 
comfort to his suffering guest. In a few moments 
Lorenzo spoke again. " I must depart — and 
instantly ; but first I would offer to you my 
fervent thanks for the kindness and hospitality 
with which you welcomed me — a stranger to your 
city.--" 

*« Nay, speak not of it, I pray,'' said Jacopo, 
who was better versed in courtly compliments and 
dissimulation than in the gentle art of soothing the 
sorrowful, " we have but poorly shown the high 
honour in which we hold your person and your 
house. The Medici, and the Orsini, have ever 
been friends; and much do we lament the grief 
that now overshadows the dwelling of those so 
dear to our hearts ! " 



204 MELANTHE. 

" I thank you, Prince, from my heart," replied 
Lorenzo. " There is yet a favour I would beg." 

" You have only to speak, to be obeyed," said 
Jacopo, fully expecting that his daughter's name 
was about to be mentioned. 

" I have remarked, of late," replied Lorenzo, 
" that his Holiness has returned but cold answers 
to the various demands I have been called upon to 
make in the name of the City of Florence ; I would 
have him made aware of the urgent sorrow which 
summons me hence, ere I can lay my homage at 
his feet." 

" It shall be done," said Jacopo ; " I will imme- 
diately seek the Cardinal, who will carry your 
message to the Pope." 

" I thank you," replied Lorenzo, " and now — 
farewell ! " 

" Have you no other business ? " asked Jacopo, 
startled from his usual caution by the hurry of 
the moment. " My daughter ! " 

" Commend me to the Lady Clarice, " said Lo- 
renzo hastily, " and entreat her that she remember 
me in her prayers — for the desolate — and un- 
happy ! " More he could not say ; for with the 



MELANTHE. 205 

name of Clarice another arose to his lips which he 
did not dare to utter : he turned away, and left the 
disappointed Jacopo standing alone in his chamber ; 
and whole ages of sorrow seemed to roll over the 
heart of Lorenzo as his thoughts reverted with 
agony to Melanthe, from whom he now felt as if 
again separated — and for ever ! 



CHAPTER XXI. 

The news of the departure of Lorenzo for 
Florence, and of the dangerous illness of Piero, 
produced various effects upon those in Rome who 
were opposed to the power of the Medici. Some 
looked upon it as a fatal blow to the hopes they 
had entertained of being able to subvert the autho- 
rity of the family ; while others considered it only 
as a step gained towards the total extinction of the 
race they detested. As yet, no decided plan had 
been agreed upon amongst the conspirators. Con- 
tending interests made it a difficult matter to 
arrange ; but where the general object was of such 
vital importance, it soon became obvious that, if 
success was to be hoped for, some sacrifice of indi- 
vidual wishes must be effected. 

Strange as it may appear to those who have 
formed a different idea of the imperative nature of 
the duties and uprightness belonging to the station 



MELANTHE. 207 

of him who was denominated " Father of the 
Church,*" the whole body of malcontents did not 
number one amongst them, whose virulence and 
determination to annihilate the family of the Medici 
equalled that of him, whose words should have 
been those of charity and peace. From the day in 
which, at his secret council table, he had listened to 
the proposal of murder, from the lips of Francesco 
de' Pazzi, Sixtus had been most active in the fur- 
therance of every scheme which might carry their 
purpose into effect. The inflexible hatred of the 
Pope was the rallying point of the conspirators. 
In this Sixtus was not, as they had at first imagined, 
solely actuated by the fear of the growing power 
of the Medici. Views of a private nature lent their 
aid, and revenge of a fancied insult to one of his 
race, conspired to fan into flame the hatred to the 
Florentine rulers, which had long smouldered in 
his bosom. Notwithstanding his vow of celibacy, 
Sixtus had several sons, whom, under the false 
appellation of nephews, he endeavoured to advance 
in the world. His favourite was Girolamo Riario, 
upon whom he had bestowed the title of Count, 
and for whom he had lavished immense sums in the 



MELANTHE. 

purchase of various estates. The Duchy of Imola 
had been bought from the family of the Manfredi 
for forty thousand ducats ; and soon after, Forli 
was added to the possessions of the Count. Yet 
all this was not sufficient to satisfy the grasping 
avarice of Girolamo ; and he soon persuaded Sixtus 
to add the city of Castello to the territories with 
which he had already invested him. This, how- 
ever, was not so easy of accomplishment. To 
possess himself of the city, as he had already done 
in some other cases, by the force of arms, was the 
first intention of the Pope ; yet, to his surprise, he 
not only experienced stout resistance from the 
possessor, Nicolo Vitelli, but found that several of 
the neighbouring states lent their aid in his defence ; 
and although unable to cope with a force so supe- 
rior as that which Sixtus had assembled against 
him, yet succeeded by their efforts in procuring 
honourable terms for the city, which, at length, 
was obliged to capitulate. 

Amongst those who had taken the most active 
part in the assistance afforded to the sovereign of 
Castello, were the rulers of the Florentine republic, 
who, besides the support due to a friend and ally. 



MELANTHE. 209 

had not seen without uneasiness the approach of 
the army of the Pope to the frontiers of their own 
territory. The indignation of Sixtus at thus finding 
the interests of a petty state preferred to the accom- 
plishment of his wishes, was the more violent as 
present policy did not allow him openly to display 
his anger. But the insult had never been forgotten ; 
and for years it had rankled in his breast, ever 
urging him to take a signal revenge upon the insti- 
gators of the measure. The time appeared now at 
hand ; and, in anticipation of the services which 
might be required from Girolamo, should it be 
found that his co-operation was necessary, Sixtus 
had bestowed a cardinal's hat on the young Raf- 
faelle Riaro, the eldest son of Girolamo, and who 
was a student at the University of Pisa. To such 
ends were, at that time, the highest ofiices in the 
church devoted. 

The intelligence of the sudden departure of 
Lorenzo was by no means so perplexing to the 
Pope as to some of his accomplices. Sixtus had 
too much at heart the temporal glory of the station 
he occupied, not to be aware that any barefaced 
attempt upon the life of Lorenzo while he might 



210 MELANTHE. 

be accounted his guest, would be an indelible stain 
upon the honour and dignity of the Papal crown ; 
and it was to him almost a relief when the accident 
of Piero's illness removed Lorenzo to a distance. 
If not quite so practicable, it was at least safer 
to carry on machinations against him while at 
Florence ; and it was with a grim smile of satisfac- 
tion, that the old man listened to the words of Luca 
Pitti, as he detailed the account of the danger of 
Piero, which he had learned from Jacopo Orsini. 

" A good thing ! — a good thing r he exclaimed, 
rubbing his hands as he spoke. " There will be 
one the fewer to get rid of." 

" Yes ; but your Holiness will please to remem- 
ber, that this sudden event will be the means of 
placing Lorenzo at once at the head of the republic 
— he will make friends "" 

" And also enemies," observed Sixtus, lifting his 
cunning eyes to the face of Luca Pitti. " In- 
toxicated with power, he will observe no modera- 
tion, and it will be easy to enlist on our side those 
whom, in the first instance, he will disgust by an 
abrupt denial of their claims. The body of mal- 
contents, I am told, gathers strength every day." 



MELANTHE. 211 

" It has done so," replied Luca Pitti, " during 
the absence of Lorenzo ; for Piero, reduced by the 
violence of his disorder, is utterly incapable of 
action ; and Giuliano is but a boy. If we could 
have kept Lorenzo another month in Rome, we 
should have managed to have matured our plans 
more fully." 

" Could not the bright eyes of some of our 
Roman ladies have effected this ?'' inquired Sixtus, 
with a laugh. 

" None,"' replied Luca Pitti ; " no matron or 
damsel of Rome could win so much as a smile from 
him. He had eyes and ears but for one, and 
Meianthe '' 

" Ha !" interrupted Sixtus, " Meianthe ! the 
same who won the heart of Montesecco.'" 

" The same," replied Luca Pitti ; " the daughter 
of Hassan." 

" Truly this maiden must boast of no common 
charms, since she thus enslaves the bravest and the 
greatest amongst our youth. And how fared the 
suit of the young Florentine ?" inquired the Pope, 
who was never more agreeably employed than in 
listening to the account of a love tale. 



212 MELANTHE. 

" It would seem but poorly,''' replied Luca Pitti, 
" for she suddenly quitted the Orsini palace, and 
has since remained a close prisoner in the house 
of Hassan." 

" I thought that Hassan was absent,'' said the 
Pope. 

" He is so, and that makes her conduct the more 
extraordinary. That girl," continued Luca Pitti, 
angrily, " is ever on my path, to mar the fairest 
projects. Her beauty well nigh drew from me" the 
love of Montesecco ; and now, had she smiled upon 
Lorenzo, even for a few weeks, our enterprise 
might have been completed." 

" Nay," said the Pope, doggedly, " I have said 
it before, the blood of the Medici shall not be shed 

in Rome and besides, where had been the use 

of leaving Giuliano to avenge his brother ?" 

" His death might have followed — would have 
followed," replied Luca Pitti ; " and now, by trans- 
ferring the scene of our actions to Florence, we 
have an enemy upon the spot more difficult to 
subdue than the Medici themselves." 

" Of whom do you speak ?" inquired Sixtus. 

« Of old Jacopo de' Pazzi, the head of the 



MELANTHE. 21S 

family. Could we gain him, our success is certain. 
At his villa of Montughi, the Medici are constant 
guests ; it would need only a well chosen moment 
to accomplish all. A feast — a wedding — and, in 
the confusion of the hour, who could name the 
hand that gave the blow ?" 

" Ha ! by the Saints ! well thought of,"^ ex- 
claimed the Pope, with most unholy glee ; " it 
must be done."" 

*>' Ay, but how ?^ asked Luca Pitti, gloomily. 
" Jacopo de' Pazzi, alone of the family, adheres to 
the Medici ; he is old and timid, and what weak 
men call conscientious, and would hesitate while he 
should perform."" 

" He must be bought,"" said Sixtus, calmly. 

" Impossible," replied Luca Pitti. " He is 
already rich beyond his desire ; he '"* 

" My friend,"' interrupted the Pope, " Four- 
score years have almost passed over this head — it 
needed but a few, a very few of them to be num- 
bered with the past, ere I learned the truth that 
has ever given me power over man. All are alike 
venal. One may talk of conscience, another of 
honour, while the next holds out the ties of grati- 



214 MELANTHE. 

tude, or the blessing of independence. I listen, 
but mock at their self-delusion, for all are alike 
accessible. The difference is only in the mode. 
Say, where thinkest thou is the weak point of this 
Jacopo de' Pazzi, whose countenance thou judgest 
so necessary ?*" 

" The restoration of his family to the rights and 
honours they formerly enjoyed in Florence, is his 
dearest hope," replied Luca Pitti. 

" Said I not there was a road to his heart ?'" 
exclaimed the Pope, delightedly ; " we must send 
some one to sound him. Why not depute his 
kinsman, Francesco, to carry our secret message ?" 

" Francesco has been cooler of late," replied 
Luca Pitti, " since your Holiness refused to be- 
stow upon him the post which he so much coveted.'" 

" The office of our treasurer," said Sixtus ; " the 
very office with which we had invested Lorenzo 
upon his arrival in Rome." 

" The very reason why Francesco de' Pazzi, his 
mortal enemy, would have seen him stripped of 
the honour. He had long coveted the office; to 
ffive it to a Medici was a direct affront to himself." 

"It shall be done," said the Pope, after a few 



MELANTHE. 215 

moments deliberation. " We will dismiss Lorenzo, 
and bestow his place upon Francesco. We look 
for success — we must not be over-scrupulous about 
the means.'' 

" It is a bold step," observed the cautious Luca 
Pitti. 

'• And therefore will lull all suspicion of our 
connivance at more secret measures,"" replied the 
cunning Sixtus, who instantly perceived the cover 
which any open enmity with the IMedici would 
afford. 

" Tell Francesco that the office of treasurer is 
his own ; and bid him immediately repair to Flo- 
rence, nor quit it until the consent of Jacopo de' 
Pazzi be gained," added the Pope, rising, and 
assuming the air of authority he had laid aside 
during the early part of his conversation ; and 
Luca Pitti bowed, and withdrew. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

The first days of the retirement of Melanthe 
were full of unmitigated misery. The keenness of 
the blow which had fallen upon her had produced 
a stunning sensation, which, for a time, suspended 
her faculties, and she could scarcely believe in the 
reality of her situation. It is so difficult for a 
young fresh heart to imagine the wickedness and 
guile that abounds upon the earth, that the spirit 
of Melanthe was saddened as the conviction forced 
itself upon her mind. Her first impression, was to 
impute some portion of the blame to herself; and 
though, after a severe scrutiny of her past words 
and actions, she could not succeed in discovering 
any error, save that of having neglected appear- 
ances, her sensitive nature so magnified this trifling 
imprudence, that at length she persuaded herself 
that much of her sorrow was. to be traced to her 
own folly. 



MEL AN THE. 217 

Secure in the innocence and pride of her heart, 
she had not always consulted the formal precision 
which was customary with unmarried females of 
her rank; and the independence which, from the 
uncontrolled liberty permitted to her by the fond- 
ness of Hassan, had become a habit, she now felt 
would have been better exchanged for a more 
secluded existence. From a retrospect of other 
days Melanthe turned to the present ; and she 
immediately perceived that the position into which 
she had been forced by the suddenness of her 
expulsion from the Orsini palace, was one totally 
incompatible with prudence. 

Hassan was still absent — an absence which ap- 
peared so unusually protracted, that a vague 
sense of uneasiness with regard to him began to 
oppress her mind. His return was a moment 
almost equally dreaded and desired by her ; but 
of that return she had as yet received no tidings. 
His anxiety to discover the retreat of Elphenor had 
frequently led him into many similar excursions ; 
and at first, therefore, she had not been alarmed, 
especially as a message had been delivered to her 
from him, of a nature to allay all apprehension ; 

VOL. II. L 



218 MELAXTHE. 

but when day after day passed by and brought no 
other news of the ' traveller, her fears returned ; 
and she resolved to seek some other counsel than 
her own as to the propriety of remaining so long 
in the house of Hassan with no other companion 
than Gennaro. 

Poor Gennaro ! from the day on which his mute 
declaration of the affection which filled his young 
heart had been so chillingly received by Melanthe, 
he had scarcely dared to approach her, but wan- 
dered about with a forlorn and anxious air, which 
pierced the hearts of those who looked upon him. 
The nature of the boy appeared suddenly changed. 
His former amusements had become distasteful to 
him ; and he, whose tread was once as gay and light 
as the sportive course of the butterfly, now moved 
about with a slow and heavy step — his arms folded 
on his breast ; and too often the eyes, which used to 
sparkle with a brightness almost unearthly, were 
filled with tears. The sorrow which cannot vent 
itself in words, or seek relief from sympathy, is 
ever the most difficult to bear ; and the silent 
grief of the poor dumb boy soon stole the roses 
from his cheek, and the glad smile from his lip. 



MELANTHE. 219 

The heart of Melanthe ached as she gazed upon 
him, and marked the change which sorrow had 
wrought in his appearance. Careful, neither by 
look nor deed, to encourage a feeling of which she 
was unwilling even to acknowledge to herself the 
existence, she avoided his society as much as 
possible, thus depriving herself of her only com- 
panion. But this could not prevent her observing 
the deep hold which his passion had taken on the 
mind of the boy. Often would Melanthe, although 
concealed from his view, follow every movement 
and action of Gennaro, and see, with regret, that 
but one thought actuated them all. She would 
mark him, as he sat in the spot now chosen as his 
own, because it had once been her's, when, un- 
conscious that any eye was upon him, he would 
draw from his bosom various trifling articles of 
which he had possessed himself, and which 
Melanthe knew to have been her own ; press 
them to his lips, and to his heart, kissing them 
fondly, as had been his wont, when, in days of more 
unrestrained friendship, Melanthe used to give her 
hand to his childish caresses ; and then hurriedly 
restore the treasures he had hoarded to their usual 



MKLANTHE. 

hiding place, and look fearfully round, lest any 
one might have come within view during his stolen 
moments of happiness. 

These and many other silent demonstrations of 
the love within his heart, were visible to the watch- 
ful eye of Melanthe ; and, as she beheld the symp- 
toms of an affection which had grown up without 
her knowledge or desire, her heart naturally turned 
to thoughts both of him she loved, and of him 
whose love she had so lately rejected. She looked 
upon the grief of Gennaro, and remembering the 
agony of sorrow with which Lorenzo had heard the 
rejection of his suit, she thought of Montesecco — 
the beloved, the idolized of her heart, and she 
asked herself if he loved her as either of these had 
done? It is a folly to compare the affection of 
those who love us with that of him whom our 
own heart has preferred. The consciousness of 
the sacrifices we would gladly make for his sake, 
leads us to expect more than the utmost devotion 
can give. From expecting, we come to exacting, 
and then arise the unreasonable comparisons our 
self-love is ever ready to draw. 

Melanthe, as she first admitted the dangerous 



MELANTHE. 221 

thought of comparing the love of Montesecco with 
that of others, experienced a bitter sensation of 
misery. But soon her generous nature triumphed 
over the fear which had begun to steal over her. 
She recollected the peculiarity of the position in 
which he was placed, one which precluded the 
possibility of his immediately returning to seek her ; 
she recollected the scroll which he had left, and 
which doubtless contained the assurance of his faith ! 
moreover, she remembered the many acts of kind- 
ness, the words of love he had spoken ; and, as she 
thought of them, her cheek crimsoned with delight, 
and her heart filled with regret for the slight suspi- 
cion her passing thoughts had cast upon his sincerity. 
The more Melanthe dwelt upon the love of 
Montesecco, the more she considered it an impera- 
tive duty to shield a name so dear to him from all 
suspicion ; and she felt that after the imputation 
which had been cast upon her, to remain longer 
alone was objectionable. But where to go was the 
question ? Disowned by the Orsini, the friends of 
her youth, she dared not to claim protection from 
any other of the noble families in Rome ; and 



222 . MELANTHE. 

kinsmen of her own, she had none. In this 
dilemma, her only resource was to return to the 
convent where she had passed so many years, and 
there, stating her forlorn condition, implore the 
protection of the Abbess, until the return of Hassan 
should restore her to his care. Having determined 
upon this step, Melanthe lost no time in putting it 
into execution ; and leaving her house for the first 
time since she had returned from the Orsini palace, 
she took her way to the convent. 

Since she had last entered its walls, what vicis- 
situdes of life had she not experienced ! She had 
quitted the convent, peaceful and happy, only to 
entangle herself in the mazes of the labyrinth of 
love! For a moment sunshine was upon her path, but 
the cloud of sorrow gathered, and darkness fell 
around her, shutting out the beacon of joy. Exposed 
as she was on all sides, what new trials might she 
not have to undergo ! She thought of the love of 
Lorenzo — of poor Gennaro, and then a shudder 
passed over her, as she remembered the accusation 
which had left her friendless, and the hated name of 
Borgia rose to her mind. 



MELAXTHE. 223 

The idea lent speed to her steps, and she hastened 
forward until she reached the gate of the convent. 
No earthborn fear of rejection stayed her hand, 
as she opened the wicket. She was entering the 
house of those who, in dedicating themselves to 
God, had remembered that he said, "he would 
have mercy and not sacrifice ;" and she knew that 
even had she sinned, she would still be welcome 
there as one who repented. Nor was she dis- 
appointed. The Abbess heard her tale with true 
christian forbearance. Nothing was concealed by 
Melanthe, except her suspicion of the part which 
the Cardinal Borgia had played, and his identity 
with the Padre Anselmo, from whom, during her 
former residence at the convent, she had been in the 
habit of receiving instruction. She openly confessed 
her love for Montesecco, and her determination 
never to become the wife of another ; and when her 
spirits had become composed, she could not forbear 
smiling, as the good sisters with whom she had ever 
been a favourite, crowded around her, each adding 
her exhortation to that which had been given by 
her predecessor, in order to induce Melanthe to 



224 MEL AN THE. 

promise that she never again would venture forth 
into the wicked world, but seek tranquillity 
within their peaceful walls. Melanthe thanked 
them — with words — even with tears of grateful 
affection ; but she could not promise obedience. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The sensations of Melanthe, on again establish- 
ing herself as a visitor at the convent, were over- 
powering. So keen was her delight in the certainty 
of protection, that for the first few days after her 
arrival, her mind actually revelled in repose. Her 
only present anxiety was caused by incessant watch- 
ing for the return of Hassan. Each day, a messenger 
was dispatched to the house ; but Hassan did not 
arrive, and each day the heart of Melanthe filled 
with sorrow, as she saw poor Gennaro, after having 
deposited his daily offering of flowers at the gate 
of the convent, retrace his mournful steps to that 
home which was now doubly desolate to him. 

Still Melanthe remained firm in her determina- 
tion of not quitting the convent ; and the kindness 
of the abbess was constantly exerted to render 
her stay as comfortable as possible. The cells 
allotted to such as were mere boarders, or visitors, 
L 5 



MELANTHE. 

were many degrees better than those with which 
the holy sisters contented themselves. That which 
Melanthe occupied was the same which had been 
devoted to her use during former years ; and as, by 
the permission of the abbess, she had caused many 
of her own things to be brought from the house of 
Hassan, before long her little room presented an ap- 
pearance of comfort and neatness of arrangement 
which called forth repeated expressions uf wonder 
and admiration from the simple women, who, 
during their secluded lives, had passed their days 
happily without even the suspicion of the luxuries 
enjoyed by others. They were never weary of 
questioning Melanthe as to what she had seen 
during her stay in the great world. The glories of 
the palaces, the description of the dresses, the 
gaiety of the hunting parties, the dances, the 
masques, the fireworks, horse races, and fights 
between wild beasts ; — all was new to them — all 
was delightful ; and they listened to the accounts 
which she detailed for their gratification with a 
delight almost childish, but free from envy, or any 
feeling of discontent at being cut off from similar 
enjoyments. The dull routine of their conventual 



MELAXTHE. 227 

existence seemed to have brought with it a feeling 
which, perhaps, it was intended it should inspire — 
a total blunting of sensibility ; and the poor nuns, 
whilst they listened to Melanthe, indulged in no 
other remains of worldly w^eakness, save that of 
curiosity, and afterwards returned contentedly to 
their monotonous avocations. 

But Melanthe, much as she enjoyed the repose 
vouchsafed to her, felt the disinclination she had 
always experienced for a conventual life, every day 
increase ; and when the good abbess constantly 
endeavoured, by gentle reasoning, to prove its 
superiority over every other state of existence, 
Melanthe shuddered at the idea of the living grave 
to which she would lure her. To one of her intel- 
lect, the prison of the mind which the convent 
presented, was a picture more formidable by many 
degrees than that of the body ; and narrow as was 
her cell, it was nothing to the narrowness that 
hemmed in her soul, as she listened to the conver- 
sation of those, who appeared to think that the most 
acceptable offering to Heaven, is a state of negative 
existence upon earth. 

A short time sufficed to restore the tranquillity 



MELANTHE. 

of Melanthe, but it was not destined to endure. 
One morning she was sitting alone in her cell, and 
her spirit was less firm than it had hitherto been. 
Her messenger had just returned, and still no news 
from Hassan had reached his dwelling. The hour 
in which this same answer had for so many days 
met the ear of Melanthe, was ever one of sadness, 
and this day when again disappointment had fallen 
upon her, she felt more acutely than usual that the 
protracted absence of Hassan was unnatural, and 
a presentiment of evil fell upon her spirit. Her 
thoughts reverted to all that had occurred, and a 
deep gloom settled upon her mind as the recollec- 
tion of the Cardinal made her tremble. Could she 
have disconnected his image from her woes, they 
had seemed lightened of half their load ; but a 
secret conviction that he was the cause of all 
pressed upon her, and in vain she strove to shake 
off* the belief. The cruel words of Luca Pitti, 
which had effected the sudden separation from 
Montesecco, were even ascribed by Melanthe to the 
influence of Borgia, though, much as he rejoiced 
at their effect, he had been innocent of their sug- 
gestion. 



MELANTHE. 229 

As Melanthe thought of this, her heart grew 
vet more bitter against the author of her misfor- 
tunes ; and she began to question the prudence 
with which she had hitherto refrained from making 
known to any one the persecution to which his 
odious passion had subjected her. But, alas ! the 
time had gone by when such a step had been pos- 
sible. To whom could she now reveal a secret of 
so disgraceful a nature ? The good Abbess could 
not even protect her, for the Cardinal was all 
powerful ; and had it been otherwise, Melanthe 
shrunk from the idea of polluting the ear of the 
pure and timid votary of heaven with a tale so 
horrible and profane. She shrunk even from her- 
self, as she thought with terror whether it could 
have been possible that she had ever unwittingly 
encouraged such degradation, as she felt the love of 
Borffia to be : but here her conscience came to her 
support, and lifting her bowed head, while her 
cheeks glowed with shame from the scrutiny which 
she had thus been forced to make of all her past 
intercourse with one so depraved, she sunk upon 
her knees before the crucifix suspended in her cell, 
and fervently prayed that she might henceforth be 



230 MELANTHE. 

saved from the pollution of further communication 
with him. 

It seemed as though her words had summoned 
to her presence the form she so much dreaded. 
Scarcely had she risen from her knees, when a 
heavy step sounded on her ear, and the next 
moment Borgia stood before her. But he came 
not in his wonted state. His robe of pride was 
thrown aside ; his gorgeous attendants waited not 
now upon his steps ; and* all the splendour with 
which he had often hoped to dazzle the eyes of her 
whose destruction he secretly compassed, was now 
exchanged for the loose frock and deep cowl of a 
poor Franciscan friar, concealing as effectually the 
beauty and grace of his form, as the veil of 
hypocrisy which he so well knew how to assume, 
when it suited his purpose, covered the blackness 
of his designing and impious heart. 

The cheek of Melanthe blanched as she beheld 
him enter her cell, and carefully secure the door 
through which he had passed. But the movement 
which excited such terror in her breast, was 
merely intended as a measure of precaution against 
the curiosity of those who might chance to pass 



MELANTHE. 231 

that way ; for it did not form part of the system 
by which the Cardinal hoped one day to possess 
himself of his victim, to make use of any restraint 
or violence towards her. To carry her off at once 
would have been an exploit at that time attended 
with httle difficulty and less danger; but the 
Cardinal was far too much of a sensualist to be 
satisfied with a triumph so easily obtained. His 
manner towards Melanthe had ever been one of 
respectful adoration ; and though he had not 
scrupled to insult her by declarations of a love 
which in one of his calling never could be sanctified 
by marriage, yet it had always been conveyed in 
the most courtly strain, as if fearful to offend the 
modesty he so much admired. 

For the nature of Borgia, reckless and profligate 
as it was, had in it so much of refinement, added 
to a penetration seldom equalled, that the fine 
qualities of Melanthe were not lost upon him ; and 
perhaps it was this very superiority over the 
ordinary character of other women, quite as much as 
the rare beauty of her person, that first inflamed 
his sated fancy, and inspired him with the idea of 
making himself loved by her whom he so ardently 



MELANTHE. 

admired. The repugnance with which she had 
always listened to his words, by no means damped 
his hopes. With the extent of his power he knew 
her to be unacquainted, and he hoped that time 
and assiduity would remove any impression which 
she might have formed against him. Ignorant of 
the strength of her affection for Montesecco, he 
calculated that absence and the difficulty of com- 
munication would soon remove a passing fancy ; 
and the account of Luca Pitti, as well as the words 
which he himself had read upon the scroll so 
insidiously abstracted from Mariana, left him 
reason to suppose that no engagement of a serious 
nature existed between the object of his affections, 
and the Condottiere. 

The devotion of Lorenzo to Melanthe had been 
a source of extreme anxiety to Borgia. He could 
scarcely conceive the possibility of any woman's 
rejecting an alliance so splendid ; but the indif- 
ference of Melanthe soon became too obvious to 
remain unperceived by any person except one who 
was blinded by his own hopes; and the Cardinal 
had merely devised the infamous plan of accusa- 
tion, which had so foully prospered, in order to 



MELANTHE. 

deprive her of the protection of the Orsini ; a 
protection too powerful to admit of his prosecu- 
ting his schemes with the freedom he desired. 
Now, when he beheld how all his wickedness 
had succeeded, how did he rejoice in the inven- 
tion ; and when was added the intelligence of 
the retreat of the unhappy girl into the convent, 
his heart bounded with exultation ; for Melanthe, 
in the convent, was more helpless and accessible 
than in the house of Hassan, where, in the fear of 
some premature discovery taking place, the Car- 
dinal had lately forborne to intrude. 

Now all danger was removed ; and Borgia, after 
a few days had passed, which he hoped might have 
the effect of making the miseries of her future 
position still more apparent to her, took his way to 
the convent, to which, in the assumed character of 
Confessor, he had long had free access. The 
duties, which were always irksome, never had 
appeared to him so intolerable as on that day. It 
seemed as if every nun in the convent had, pur- 
posely to occupy his time, committed what in the 
innocence of their hearts they called most heinous 
sins. To wearisome tales, and long-drawn confes- 



234 MELANTHE. 

sions, was the impatient Cardinal forced to listen, 
until his brain reeled with the irritation they caused 
him : but at length they came to an end ; and 
having distributed with a lavish hand penances 
and fastings of different degrees among the trem- 
bling sisters, he quitted the Confessional, and 
made the best of his way to the spot where his 
impatience would long since have carried him, had 
he dared to pass through the Convent without the 
semblance at least of having performed some of 
his duties. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

" Heaven's blessing be upon thee, my daughter !'"* 
said the Cardinal, addressing Melanthe in the form 
of his sacred character. " Having learned that thy 
mind was full of anxiety for the safety of Hassan, 
thy father by adoption, I have come to try and 
minister some comfort to thee." 

'* Thanks, Reverend Father ^ replied Melanthe, 
meekly folding her hands upon the breast, which 
only throbbed with more terror at what she knew 
to be an hypocritical salutation ; " my troubles are 
indeed many, and my anxiety is great." 

" Without reason," observed the Cardinal 
calmly ; " at the appointed time, Hassan will 
return." 

There was something in the tone in which these 
words were said, that made Melanthe tremble ; 
and hoping, by showing her unwillingness to prolong 
the conversation, that she might at least confine 



236 MELANTHE. 

it to ordinary topics, she merely bowed her head, 
and remained silent. 

" Is it permitted for me to inquire,'' said Borgia 
blandly, " the reason why I find thee in this place, 
instead of enjoying the festivities of the Orsini 
palace ?" 

" I am here by my own wish,"" said Melanthe, 
colouring at the evasion she imagined herself forced 
to practise. " The lady Abbess is my friend, and 
will protect me." 

" Scarcely so well as a Prince of the Orsini," re- 
plied Borgia, unable to repress a look of malevolent 
triumph, which fortunately was unnoticed by 
Melanthe. 

" In the house of God, none need protection 
from the world without." 

''True," answered Borgia with an incredulous 
smile, " the sanctity of the convent is inviolable. 
Still, methinks it were not overpl easing to Hassan 
to learn that thou hadst quitted the palace of his 
friend with such an unkind appearance of haste." 

" I will myself inform him of the reason," said 
Melanthe. 

The unmanly triumph of taunting her with a 



MELANTHE. 237 

disgrace, which she believed to have been the work 
of his own hand, was fast arousing the indigna- 
tion which at first she had resolved to suppress. 

" And why wilt thou not confide in me ?" asked 
Borgia gently ; " dost thou estimate my friendship 
at so low a rate, or hast thou forgotten that, in 
other days, here, in this very cell, I have listened 
to thy confession ? In those days, thou thoughtest 
me a friend "" 

" Because in those days I believed thee one, and 
knew not that the great Cardinal Borgia would 
stoop to the office of the poor Padre Anselmo, for 
tiie sake of abusing a helpless maiden's confi- 
dence." 

" How have I abused thy confidence P'' asked 
Borgia, enchanted to have provoked an accusation, 
which might make Melanthe depart from the cold 
stateliness of tone in which she had hitherto 
addressed him. 

" Hast thou not " she replied, but imme- 
diately added, "but words are idle— and I would 

fain be alone '' and rising from her seat without 

lifting her eyes to those of the Cardinal, she 
attempted to reach the door of her cell ; but the 



MEI.ANTHE. 

form of Borgia instantly interposed itself, and 
Melanthe shrunk back in disgust. 

" With all respect,"" said the Cardinal, " I would 
crave thy presence yet a while, were it only in 
remembrance pf the days when within these very 
walls my coming was welcome to thee ; thou hadst 
not then learned to arm thy brow with scorn, and 
thy lips with reproach, when words of kindness met 
thine ear." 

Melanthe felt the blood rush to her cheek, as 
the soft tone in which this was spoken, seemed to 
convey an insinuation from which her heart re- 
volted ; but disdaining to reply to it, she merely 
retired a few steps from the place where she stood, 
and the Cardinal perceiving her determination to 
avoid all allusion to the subject, continued — 

" Answer me but one question. Why is it that 
I find thee thus changed ? Have I in aught 
offended thee ? If so, I am ready to atone for it 
in any way thou mayest point out." 

The hypocrisy of these words was so great that 
Melanthe startled from her reserve, exclaiming, 
" Yes, there is a way ; to leave me in peace, and 
for ever — this is all I ask."' 



MELANTHE. 239 

" And that I cannot grant," replied Borgia. 
" No, Melanthe, sooner than leave thee, will I re- 
nounce the whole world. I live but in thy sight ; 
my midnight dream and waking thought is still of 
thee alone, and to win thy love *' 

^' Speak not to me of love,'" interrupted Me- 
lanthe fiercely, " the very word is poison from thy 
lips, the air polluted by its sound ; — while I, the 
wretched object of a suit so foul, am sunk to 
infamy in my own eyes even for having listened 
to its breath."' 

" Nay, calm thyself,"" meekly replied the Car- 
dinal, while he gazed with passionate admiration 
on the beauty of Melanthe, which, inflamed by 
scorn, shone with increased radiance as she stood 
erect before him. " Calm thyself, and let thy gentle 
heart frame some word more kind than infamy in 
speaking of my love."" 

" No ! none more kind, nor less true ;"' answered 
Melanthe, " unhallowed love is infamous !" 

" Yes, if it were unhallowed," said Borgia with 
assumed decorum ; " but the love I crave of 
thee is honourable before God and man, 'tis that 
of holy wedlock '" 



240 MELANTHE. 

" Wedlock ! thou a priest — a Cardinal — would 
I could call thee holy,"" said Melanthe, with an 
air of such ineffable contempt, that Borgia actually 
winced beneath it. 

" Thou forgettest that the power which makes 
can also unmake. There is no vow so binding but 
the Father of the Church can unloose at his will. 
When I ask thee, therefore, to be my wife, it is 
because I know such things are possible. Say but 
the word, and the next hour a dispensation from 
the Pope will prove to thee that the love of Borgia 
is no counterfeit.'"* 

" To be thy wife," said Melanthe, with a shud- 
der so prolonged, that it seemed as if before her 
strained eyes a vision of future ages of misery and 
horror slowly passed. 

" Yes !" replied tlie Cardinal, without seeming 
to remark the disgust painted upon her face ; " and 
with the wife of Borgia, no crowned queen shall 
dare to vie. Melanthe, thou knowest not the proud 
eminence to which my power can raise the woman 
that I love. Even now, 'tis far beyond all that 
thou canst conceive. Honours, dignity, and wealth 
unbounded, are in my gift. But there shall 



MELANTHE. 241 

come a day, when all tliese will be as nothing; 
and when thy hand, Melanthe, that now upon my 
knees I crave, shall wield the destinies of nations ; 
one day, the brows of Borgia will wear the Papal 
crown ; and thou, Melanthe, thou the loved, the 
adored of his heart " 

" Peace, monster of iniquity ! perjured before 
God and man,'' cried ]M elan the, unable to repress 
her horror, as Borgia, throwing himself upon his 
knees before her, attempted to take her hand. " I 
tell thee, were thy false words true, and could the 
Holy Church annul those vows that bind thee to 
her, sooner would Melanthe be torn limb from 
limb than be the bride of such a one as thou/' 

" Thou lovest me not," said Borgia, in a tone of 
sorrow so deep and unfeigned, that it showed, 
amidst all his villainy, the dislike of Melanthe 
could touch his heart with real grief. 

" Now, may just heaven, and all its blessed 
saints, bear witness to my words," said Melanthe, 
as, with the rapidity of light, she threw herself 
upon her knees before the crucifix suspended from 
the wall, and, raising her clasped hands above her 
head, exclaimed, " I hate thee with a hate as deadly, 

VOL. II. M 



24^ MELANTHE. 

as though thou wert some reptile whose very breath 
is death. Even thus I loathe thy presence — loathe 
myself for having listened to thy impious words. 
Begone,'^ she continued, as she rose from the 
ground, and with a gesture of proud contempt, 
pointed to the door. " Begone, ere heaven send 
down its wrath upon the wretch that thus, within 
the holy convent walls, has dared to brave the 
sanctity they bear, and mock the garb of Christ, 
by making it a cover for a sin so hideous l"" 

" Thou lovest another i^" said Borgia, in a tone 
so calm, and with a manner so deliberate, that it 
offered a startling contrast to the violence of 
Melanthe. 

The only answer he received was another im- 
patient gesture from her, urging his departure; 
but his keen eye had marked the quivering lip of 
his victim, unable to repress the fear which shook 
her to the soul, as these words reached her ear. 

" Thou lovest another,""* repeated Borgia, yet 
more slowly, " and that other is — Montesecco !'' 

The word was like a spell. The eye of Me- 
lanthe fell ; and though she moved not from the 
proud attitude she had assumed, yet the sudden 



MELANTHE. 243 

heaving of her breast, and the deep crimson of the 
blush which overspread her face, at once proved to 
Borgia that he was not mistaken ; and that the 
feelinff which he had striven to convince himself 
was but transient, had taken too deep a root to be 
easily effaced. 

The cheek of Borgia reddened also. A feeling 
of pain so intense that, for a moment, he could not 
master it, sent the blood from his heart ; but as 
the blush faded from his face, so did the dream 
of love from his mind, only to give place to visions 
of revenge. In such a breast as that of the Car- 
dinal, the transition was instantaneous ; no check 
had ever been placed upon his unbridled passions 
with impunity; and before the confusion of Me- 
lanthe had sufficiently passed away to suffer her to 
speak, the active imagination of Borgia had already 
devised the most exquisite torture which he could 
inflict upon those whose affection had so fatally 
interposed between him and the gratification of his 
unholy desires. 

" Why should I hesitate to avow it ?" said Me- 
lanthe, steadily raising her eyes to those of the 



244 MELANTHE. 

Cardinal, " Montesecco is, indeed, the chosen of my 
Jieart."" 

" Rash woman," said Borgia, bending a fiend- 
like glance upon her glowing countenance, *' thou 
speakest as one who glories in her choice. How 
knowest thou that he is worthy of thy love ?" 

" Because I know his heart is above guile — 
because I know his lightest word is truth ; and that 
within his breast no dishonourable thought ever 
yet found a resting place. Brave — honest — true. 
It is for this I love him — and glory in my love." 

The sublime tenderness which lighted up the 
face of Melanthe, as she thus unshrinkingly bore 
witness to the noble qualities of Montesecco, filled 
the bosom of the Cardinal with rage ; but still 
dissembling, he continued ; " But yet no fitting 
mate for thee. His parentage unknown — a wan- 
dering soldier — the hireling of any state that 
barters gold for blood — is this the husband of thy 
choice, thou who mightest reign a queen ?"" 

" It is himself, and not his state, I love ; and to 
be loved of one I so reverence and honour, is, to 
me, more glorious than all the splendour of a crown. 



MELANTHE. 245 

His heart is the only kingdom I desire ; and while 
it is my own, I fear not all that maHce can desire, 
or misfortune inflict." 

As Melanthe spoke, she had entirely regained 
her self-possession ; and the firmness and reliance 
upon the love which she so prized, proved to 
Borgia, that he had not mistaken the line of 
vengeance he intended to pursue. Coming up close 
to the side of Melanthe, who was diverted for the 
moment by her reflections, from the terror of her 
present position, he said, in a voice so low that its 
hoarse whisper was as the hissing of a serpent in 
her ear, 

" Melanthe ! thou hast despised my love — 
scorned my power — and trampled upon the dearest 
hope that dwelt within my breast ; for I did love 
thee — madly doated on thee, and my pride would 
have been to place thee on a pinnacle of greatness 
no other woman has ever reached. This dream 
thou hast destroyed, and openly avowed thy love for 
another — for one, whom thou dost profess to 
honour as well as love. Melanthe, in so much is thy 
nature like my own that to love to agony — to mad- 
ness, is common to us both. Thou hast but one 



24() MELANTHE. 

thought — to be the wife of Montesecco — speak,'' he 
added almost furiously, " answer me, is it not so ?" 

" It is," replied Melanthe steadily ; and raising 
her eyes devoutly to Heaven, as though to register 
her words. 

" To give to him,"" continued Borgia, in a voice 
almost inarticulate with passion, " all that wild 
worship of the soul that I would have given to 
thee — to dwell upon his every look and word, 
until thy heart, dissolving in its love, loses all sense 
of being, save in him. Shrink not,*" he added, as 
Melanthe, frightened by his vehemence, and the 
fierce passion of his looks, covered her blushing face 
with her hands, " Shrink not," he continued, 
while a smile of demoniacal malice played upon his 
livid cheek, "in anticipation of thy bliss, for by the 
eternal Heaven I swear, such joys are not for thee, 
and the love of Montesecco shall be turned to hate ^ 

" Never,'" exclaimed Melanthe ; " his truth and 
faith I measure by my own ; and to change that, 
thou, proud Cardinal, with all thy boasted power, 
hast proved thyself most powerless." 

" That power thou mayest defy," replied Borgia, 
stimg to madness by the taunt which the imputa- 



MELAXTHE. 247 

tion he had cast upon the faith of lier lover had 
wrung from the lips of Melanthe. " Thou hast 
defied it — but none ever did so with impunity. I 
tell thee again, the love on which thou leanest shall 
fail thee. The hour will come, when, kneeling at 
his feet, Montesecco shall spurn thee as the vilest 
of thy sex ; when that hour comes, think of the 
power thou hast this day defied ; think of Roderigo 
Borgia, and tremble !"" 

A shriek burst from the lips of Melanthe, when 
Borgia, his lips livid with passion, his eyes glaring 
upon her, as though they could pierce her to the 
soul, advanced slowly towards her, and seizing her 
arm as he pronounced the last words, held it 
forcibly for a moment. 

" Fear not," said the Cardinal, with a contemp- 
tuous laugh as he relaxed his grasp, " thy life is 
safe ; the revenge of Borgia aims at more noble 
ends ; the poison that works quickly is but a 
coward's arm." 

" Oh ! my father," exclaimed Melanthe mourn- 
fully, " can it be that on the same earth with thee 
thy child is thus beset ; and thou, Hassan, alas ! 
where art thou ? All — all — abandon me." 



248 MELANTHE. 

" Melanthe spoke these words almost unconscious 
of the presence of Borgia ; and when his hateful 
voice again roused her attention, she gazed upon 
him with a look of bewilderment, as he said, 

" Yes, all ! and if they did not, thinkest thou 
the prisons of the Holy City have not yet a dungeon 
for such as would cross my path. Thy father's 
existence is a dream of thy brain ; — upon Hassan 
hast thou looked thy last ; — from the palace of the 
Orsini thou art an outcast; and before yon sun 
has set, from these walls shalt thou be expelled. 
The world is before thee ; go, and wander upon its 
breast; call its Princes to thy defence; who will 
dare to meet the power of the Borgia ? to hide thee 
from the curse of his hatred ? Who will save thee 
from the vengeance of a heart that loved thee, 
and which thou hast scorned ? Yes, I once loved 
thee; but now, Melanthe, listen, and tremble; in 
thy own words, I say — ' I hate thee !' and the 
hatred of a Borgia goes hand in hand with his 
revenge.*" And with a lingering scowl of malice, 
the Cardinal quitted the cell. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

The door closed upon the receding figure of the 
Cardinal, and Melanthe was again alone ; but the 
pride which had hitherto sustained her began to 
fail, as the fearful menaces of Borgia rung in her 
ears. Was it possible that such words could have 
been addressed to her ? and what was her crime ? 
The greatest crime a woman could commit towards 
the self love and arrogance of man. She had 
despised his love, and in her resistance to temp- 
tation, and neglect of worldly advancement, had 
proved herself superior to him. The disappoint- 
ment of the passion he had conceived for Melanthe 
was even less keen in the bosom of Borgia than 
the sense of the withering contempt with which 
she had listened to his proposals. The rejection of 
the insidious scheme of a formal marriage, which 
M -5 



250 MELANTHE. 

he well knew would have been eagerly adopted by 
any woman of less uncompromising integrity than 
Melanthe, left him no hope that any means of 
persuasion would prevail. Its failure convinced 
him that he had the more deeply exposed his 
villainy ; and, smarting under the consciousness of 
the contempt he had so justly incurred, he quitted 
the presence of Melanthe, with a determination of 
making her punishment as severe as it was possible. 
No touch of pity entered his heart, for that heart 
was without one sentiment of generosity; and in 
such natures, revenge is the only solace for injury 
or disappointment. 

His first act was one of tyranny, for which, 
notwithstanding his threat, Melanthe was wholly 
unprepared. Scarcely had an hour elapsed since 
she had been released from his presence, when a 
gentle knock upon her door announced a visitor ; 
and the next moment the venerable figure of the 
Lady Abbess appeared. She did not speak, but 
with a trembling hand held out to Melanthe a 
paper. One look sufficed to the unhappy girl to 
prove that her persecutor was in earnest in his 



MELANTHE. 251 

menace of vengeance. The hateful signature of 
Borgia revealed to her what was incomprehensible 
to the Abbess. The Cardinal, as superior of her con- 
vent, was absolute within its walls ; and the order for 
the immediate expulsion of Melanthe, conveyed to 
the Abbess by the paper she now held, was a step 
which she knew, however unusual, did not exceed 
his prerogative. So despotic was the power of the 
fathers of the church, that all resistance to their 
mandates was vain; and the tears of the good 
Abbess fell fast upon the head of Melanthe, as the 
poor girl, overcome by this sudden view of her 
desolate sudden position, threw herself into the 
arms of her only friend, and besought her not to 
deprive her of her protection. 

" My daughter," said the Abbess, " you know 
not what you ask. Willingly would I retain you 
in this holy place ; but the power is not mine. At 
the command of his Eminence, the Cardinal, must 
every bar give way. Shouldst thou remain after 
this order to depart, each cell would be examined, 
and, merciful Father, protect them ! even the faces 
of the youngest of our nuns might be exposed to 



252 MELANTHE. 

the rude gaze of strangers. Heaven shield our 
house from such a scandal !"" and the pious mother 
crossed herself devoutly, and raised her eyes to the 
figure of Christ, which hung above the pallet of 
Melanthe. 

" But not yet— surely not yet,"" exclaimed Me- 
lanthe, with a shudder ; " let me look at the 
paper." 

" Alas ! my child, we may not delay — the very 
hour is named, beyond which it is forbidden that 
you should tarry within our walls." 

" It is so," said Melanthe, clasping her hands 
in horror, for she remembered the words of Borgia, 
" before the sun has set, from these walls shalt 
thou be expelled." 

" Alas ! alas ! whither shall I go ?" 

" My daughter, be comforted," said the Abbess, 
to whom a sudden thought seemed to have im- 
parted hope. " The Lady Abbess of the convent 
of the Spirito Santo is my near kinswoman. At 
my prayer she will receive you. This injunction 
extends only to our house. See, it is addressed to 
me alone : — ' To the Lady Abbess of the convent 



MELAXTHE. 253 

of the Speranza ;"* no other is named in it. Yes, 
that is the best plan — with her you can remain in 
safety until the return of Hassan.'" 

" Blessed mother of God !'' said Melanthe, 
raising her hands to heaven, " it is thou who hast 
inspired this thought.'' 

" Yes, yes, my child, let us give glory to the 
blessed Madonna,'' said the Abbess ; " she will aid 
us in the moment of peril. But the hour advances 
— I must seek for other counsel in this case ; we 
must not offend the Cardinal. I will send for 
Padre Anselmo, and in his care " 

A shriek from her companion interrupted the 
speech of the good Abbess, who, unused to violent 
emotions, and still more unacquainted with the 
causes from which they spring, gazed com- 
passionately upon the terrified countenance of 
Melanthe, and drawing her nearer to her, she 
said, 

" Poor child ! her fear has turned her brain. 
Be calm, my daughter ; such terrors are an offence 
to heaven, and the blessed saints. Look up to the 
sweet face of the Holy Virgin, and remember 



254 MELANTHE. 

her sufferings ; and yet she feared not, but trusted 
in God, and is now Queen of Heaven. Kneel to 
her, my child, and pray that she may guide you 
on your way !" 

Melanthe did as she was desired ; and the holy 
nun laid her hand upon the head of the weeping 
girl, and repeated a short prayer. 

" I will go, mother !*" said Melanthe, as she rose 
from her knees. 

" See, the sun has nearly set," she added, 
pointing to the window, and her heart sickening as 
she spoke, for she thought on the words of Borgia. 

" And whither will you go, my child ?" 

" I will return home; and should I find it im- 
possible to remain there, I will seek the asylum 
you have pointed out to me; but only on one 
condition, that you never breathe my name to 
him '' She hesitated ; and the Abbess repeated, 

" To him — to whom do you mean .?" 

" To him you mentioned — to Padre Anselmo," 
replied Melanthe, with difficulty overcoming her 
disgust on pronouncing the name so linked with 
all her sorrow. 



MELANTHE. 255 

" And why so, my daughter ? you were ever an 
especial favourite with our confessor," said the 
Abbess. 

" I fear — I believe," stammered Melanthe, " I 
have offended him of late ; but promise me, dear 
mother, not to speak of me to him at present, and 
not to tell him where I am gone." 

" I will promise it," replied the Abbess, looking 
much perplexed ; " but the counsels of a man so 
holy - - -" 

" See, see, the sun sinks behind the trees," in- 
terrupted Melanthe, who, oppressed by a nervous 
terror, now seemed full of impatience to depart. 
" Farewell, dear mother, bless me before I go !" 
and Melanthe bent her head before the Abbess. 

" I do, my child," repHed the latter; " and 
may the mother of God take you to her safe 
keeping !" 

" Pray for me," said Melanthe, in a hoarse 
voice ; " I am alone in the world." 

A deep* sob from the Abbess proved that the 
somewhat selfish fear she had at first enter- 
tained, that her protection of Melanthe might 



^56 MELANTHE. 

entail danger or disgrace upon her convent was 
fast giving way to sorrow for the loss of one who 
had been as a daughter unto her. 

" Pray for me," repeated Melanthe, " and speak 
kindly of me to the good sisters. I cannot bid 
them farewell — they would weep to see me driven 
from their walls." The voice of Melanthe faltered, 
and, for a moment, she clasped her hands over her 
eyes, as if to shut out some hideous vision ; then, 
turning to the Abbess, who was vainly endeavouring 
to stifle feelings of sympathy and kindness, the 
indulgence of which her view of religion taught 
her to believe was sinful, she added, " I am 
miserable, but not guilty — in heaven is my hope !'' 

With a look of sublime resignation, Melantlie 
raised her eyes to the crucifix, and approaching, 
reverently kissed the feet of the image of that 
Saviour in whom she trusted — then turned silently 
away. The weeping Abbess, who felt it indecorous 
to betray to the eyes of the sisterhood over whom 
she ruled, the grief which her austere self-govern- 
ment could not teach her to repress, remained 
within the cell, and from its small and grated 



MELANTHE. 257 

window she saw Melanthe cross the outer court of 
the convent. A moment afterwards the heavy 
swing of the iron -studded door announced that tlie 
desolate and friendless was driven from the shelter 
she had sought. 



CHAPTER XXVr. 

No joy awaited Melanthe on re-entering her 
former home. That word, so full of charm to 
some, is to others without meaning ; and Melanthe, 
as she looked around the vacant chambers, felt that 
to her it was so. No loved form was there to greet 
her view, — no voice of welcome sounded on her 
return, — all was silent and cold, and memory alone 
seemed to wake and watch beside the ashes of the 
past. Overpowered by her distress, Melanthe could 
not at once decide upon the course she ought to 
pursue. To remain where she was, appeared to 
her dangerous as well as imprudent ; for not only 
would it add weight to the calumny of which 
Gennaro was the object, but she also considered 
that her present position offered no security against 
the importunity and oppression of Borgia, who had 



MELANTHE. 259 

shown, by his contempt of the sanctity of the con- 
vent, how regardless he would be of all restraint, 
should it interfere with his plans. 

The prompt execution of his first threat, had 
filled her soul with a terrible conviction, which in 
vain she struggled to repel. She now saw that his 
thirst for revenge was more ardent than she had 
originally believed ; and the helpless fear which 
took possession of her mind, as she pictured to 
herself the possibility of his conveying to the ear 
of Montesecco the odious calumnies of which he 
had contrived in Rome to render her the victim, 
paralysed for the moment all power of thought and 
action. 

But the deep love which she bore to Montesecco, 
though it had been the first feeling to take alarm 
at such a prospect, soon, by its own strength and 
the purity of its nature, rose superior to its terrors ; 
and a sentiment of regret for the injury she had 
done him by the suspicion of his trust in her faith 
being shaken by the slanderous representations of 
others, took the place of all previous uneasiness. 
Secure in his affection, all her trials could be 



260 MELANTHE. 

endured ; but to merit its continuance she felt that 
unreserved confidence had become a duty ; and 
after some reflection she determined that, however 
painful might be the effort, no false delicacy should 
prevent her from disclosing to him the embarrass- 
ment of her present position. In the absence of 
Hassan, she had no other alternative ; and by her 
silence she judged that she might justly incur the 
reproach of having patiently endured the accusation 
under which she now suffered. 

This decision once formed, her mind compara- 
tively recovered its tone; but the next difficulty 
which presented itself appeared almost insur- 
mountable. The actual abode of Montesecco was 
unknown to her ; and at that time the danger of 
the roads in Italy, and consequent difficulty of 
communication was such, that it was necessary to 
send armed messengers upon any occasion of im- 
portance. This might, and probably would give 
publicity to a step which she wished should be a 
secret ; still, as no other mode of extrication from 
her difficulties occurred to her, she determined at 
all hazard to endeavour to accomplish her design. 



MELAXTHE. 261 

To ascertain the part of the country in which 
Montesecco commanded in person was the first 
point. Melanthe, whose trust in her lover was 
not to be shaken by appearances, had constantly 
repelled the idea as it had arisen, that it was 
strange Montesecco had not himself communicated 
the intelligence she was about to seek ; but remem- 
bering his return, and the mysterious disappearance 
of the scroll he had left, she reflected that it was 
possible the same hidden interference might have 
again been made use of ; and her heart acquitted 
him she loved of even the semblance of neglect. 

Little did Montesecco suppose that the assurance 
of affection and faith, which he had constantly 
addressed to Melanthe by the messengers dis- 
patched from the army, had all, by the vigilance 
of the Cardinal, been intercepted and destroyed ; 
and as, in his banishment, he bewailed the caution 
or timidity which appeared to be the cause of his 
not receiving the answers he implored her to send 
as a relief to his sorrow, still less did he imagine 
that at the same moment Melanthe was endea- 
vouring, and without success, to obtain intelligence 
of his movements. 



262 MELANTHE. 

For several days she dispatched Mariana to the 
city, with strict injunctions not to return without 
having obtained the information she required. It 
appeared as if a spell hung over the good nurse, 
who always came back with her head full of anec- 
dotes, but without having ascertained the point so 
much desired by her mistress. Each day that 
Mariana had quitted the house, it seemed as though 
she had met with the very person who could give 
her full instruction upon the subject required ; 
and yet each day had been consumed in researches 
which always proved fruitless, until Melanthe at 
last tremblingly confessed to herself, that the spell 
by which poor Mariana appeared bound was no 
other than the work of the Cardinal. It was 
evident that the house of Hassan was surrounded 
by his emissaries, and except by some bold measure 
of her own, she saw plainly that she never could 
succeed in eluding his vigilance. 

The movements of so large a body of troops as 
he commanded, and the position of so important a 
personage as Montesecco, was of too much conse- 
quence to be unknown to any in Rome save the 
lowest class of people ; and amongst these Melanthe 



MELANTHE. 263 

soon found Mariana had confined her inquiries, 
and, as might naturally have been expected, had 
received innumerable contradictory accounts. 

The peculiarity of her position, induced Melanthe 
to have recourse to what she deemed at that moment 
an extreme measure ; and she resolved to address 
herself to one whom she otherwise would never 
have approached, and to request the advice of 
Jacopo Orsini. Having thus decided, she revealed 
her intention to Mariana, entreating her to ac- 
company her ; but no persuasion could induce 
Mariana to listen to the proposal. With all the 
vehemence of an Italian, she insisted that all who 
were not friends were enemies. The Orsini had 
chosen to abandon Melanthe, her life was therefore 
not safe amongst them. So violent were her asse- 
verations, although without better foundation than 
her own prejudices, that Mariana actually prevailed 
upon her mistress to forego her intended visit. 

" Wait patiently, my child," she said, over and 
over again, as one evening they were discussing 
the point ; " wait patiently, and the blessed 
Madonna will send us help.'' 

" Ah ! — but when ? dear Mariana. I have 



> 



264 MELANTHE. 

wearied Our I.ady with my prayers, and all in 
vain/' replied Melanthe. 

" When ? Now that is so like a young girl — 
when ? the only word they ever say. As if there 
were not time enough for all things. I remember 
the day - - -'' 

" Hush !" said Melanthe, " heard you no sound ?"" 

" Nothing. Holy saints, defend us ! why, how 
pale you look, child," exclaimed Mariana. 

" I thought I heard a step,"' said Melanthe, draw- 
ing nearer to her nurse. 

'*' Stefano, perhaps, in the garden " 

" Perhaps," answered Melanthe, though by no 
means assured of the fact. 

" Sit down again, my child ! I was just going 
to tell you — but first, you must remember I was 
born at Naples. Well, I remember the day when 
my poor dear " 

" Ah !"" shrieked Melanthe, unable to control 
her emotions ; " it was him !'' 

" Who ? Now, by St. Januarius, I think thy 
poor brain is turned."" 

Mariana, who always addressed her Patron Saint 
in the hour of danger, could not look without fear 



MEL ANT HE. 



^65 



upon the face of Melanthe, for her eyes were 
strained towards the window, which opened to the 
ground, her cheeks were colourless, and a nervous- 
ness, unusual to lier, seemed to contract her whole 
frame. Mariana hastily stepped to the window. 
She saw, or fancied she saw, a muffled figure glide 
quickly into the shade; but for once prudently 
forbearing to mention her impression, she contented 
herself with looking into the garden. No form was 
visible ; but the wind blew into the apartment a 
small strip of paper which had apparently been 
laid upon the edge of the window frame. Melanthe 
sprung forward, and seized it. A glance revealed 
its author. 

" Hast thou forgotten my words ? ' For those 
who cross my path, there are dungeons, or death V " 
was all that the writing contained. 

" I knew it — it was him. O God, protect me !" 
exclaimed Melanthe, sinking on her knees. 

" Well, what is this ? another love letter,"" ex- 
claimed Mariana, whose curiosity was doubly 
excited by her inability to read the writing which 
had fallen from the hand of Melanthe. 

" A love letter, I dare be sworn ; and she is 

VOL. II. N 



266 MELANTHE. 

thanking the Virgin for it. Ah ! did not I tell you 
it would all come in good time." Mariana, as she 
ceased speaking, raised her eyes from the scroll she 
had been trying to decypher ; but the deep grief 
which sat upon the face of Melanthe so much 
alarmed the good nurse, that she instantly caught 
her in her arms, and, covering her hands with kisses, 
endeavoured to comfort her. Melanthe did not 
weep, — ^but she leaned her head against the breast 
of Mariana, and, by the violent trembling of her 
limbs, betrayed the sufferings her lips refused to 
speak. 

" Where is Gennaro .?" she suddenly asked, for a 
horrible fear had entered into her mind that the 
affection of the poor boy for her might draw upon 
him the deadly eye of the Cardinal. 

" He has not left the house to-day,"" replied 
Mariana. " I fear he is ill, he has scarcely stirred 
out since you went away, except to carry your 
flowers to the Convent every morning.*" 

" Poor, poor Gennaro r said Melanthe with a 
sigh, " would that Hassan were returned.'' 

" Ah ! but why did he ever go .?'' said Mariana, 
nodding her head up and down with an air of 



MELANTHE. 267 

peculiar sagacity. "It is not for me, a poor ser- 
vant, to judge of my master's ways ; yet I do think, 
and I must say — indeed, I did venture to hint as 
much, and if the truth must be told he quite agreed 
with me, that is, Stefano, to whom I just happened 
to mention my idea upon the subject, agreed with 
me, that it was highly injudicious, not to say 
improper. No, Heaven forbid I should say such 
a word of my master — but injudicious — impru- 
dent — not quite right — in fact, very wrong, to 
leave such a lady as the Signora, my mistress, with 
no one better to look after her than a poor dumb 
boy, who was not able to take care of himself. 
To be sure, as Stefano said, ' There could be no 
love-making, as he could not speak/ But then I 
replied to Stefano, ' Why, you old blockhead, can't 
people speak with their eyes as well as their 
tongues ?' and then he had the impudence to tell 
me, ' he only wished that I would adopt that mode 
of expression,' as if forsooth he was not too fortu- 
nate that I should speak to him at all. Santa 
Maria ! one would think he was overwhelmed with 
my conversation, while it is well known that I 
never condescend to waste my words on him, or any 



268 MKLAXTHE. 

such idiot. Why this very day he fell fast asleep, 
while I was endeavouring to enlighten him with 
a few of my observations on the world ; and you 
know, my dear child, how much Mariana has seen, 
for you must remember all that went on at Naples. 
Ah ! no, you were too young, but surely "" 

" It must be so," said Melanthe, who, absorbed 
by her own reflections, had not heard one word 
that had been uttered by her nurse. " If not, it is 
but my own peril — I will prepare."" 

Without further explanation to her astonished 
companion, Melanthe crossed the room, and, un- 
locking a cabinet, took from one of its drawers a 
purse, which she placed within the folds of her 
dress ; then, from another recess she selected some 
costly rings, which she put upon her fingers ; and 
round her neck a chain, from which hung a 
small but glittering cross. The cross she pressed 
to her lips again and again, then hid it in her 
bosom, and locking the cabinet turned to leave the 
room. 

" To-morrow ! '' she muttered slowly, as she 
glided past the wondering Mariana, " to-morrow ^ 

" Melanthe ! my child r screamed the poor 



MELANTHE. 269 

nurse, for the conviction suddenly rushed upon her 
that the senses of her companion were disordered. 

Melanthe started, when she heard her name pro- 
nounced in so loud a tone; and her eye wandered 
round the room, as if in search of the speaker, and 
falling on the frightened face of Mariana, she 
stopped, and gazed upon her ; and as she gazed she 
passed her hand over her own forehead, as if to force 
a recollection that would not come. But the mind, 
too deeply pre-occupied, refused to turn to the 
common cares of life, and with a vacant stare, 
which completed the terror of Mariana, Melanthe 
in a low tone uttered the words, " to-morrow I'" 

*' Stay, stay, my child l"^ said the nurse, ad- 
vancing towards her. 

" To-morrow!"" repeated Melanthe, mechanically, 
and without \vithdrawing her fixed look from the 
face of Mariana, though moving backwards to 
avoid her embrace. 

" Oh Heavens ! " cried Mariana, stopping, and 
clasping her hands. 

" To-morrow ! " said Melanthe, as she disap- 
peared from the room; but the tone in which 
she spoke was almost inaudible. 



270 MELANTHE. 

" She is crazed,'' said Mariana to herself. " Ahi ! 
Ahi ! it is the Malocchio, the evil eye has struck her ; 
Malocchio maledetto ! That accursed stranger ;*" 
and Mariana shook her hand towards the 
window where the figure had appeared. " It was 
the Malocchio, that almost turned her to stone; 
and I, Holy Virgin defend me, I too looked upon 
him, but I had the amulet blessed by Saint Rosalia ;^ 
and Mariana drew from her gown a bunch of the 
little charms, without which no Neapolitan peasant 
thinks himself safe from the malice of the evil eye. 
She crossed herself, and seemed comforted. 

A moment afterwards, Gennaro entered the 
apartment, and, unseen by Mariana, took up, and 
hastily concealed in his vest, the scroll which Me- 
lanthe had dropped upon the floor. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

The morning had scarcely dawned, when 
Melanthe arose from her sleepless couch. From 
the hour when, on the previous evening, she had 
received the mysterious warning to desist in her 
endeavours to communicate with those who might 
protect her, one single idea had occupied the mind 
of Melanthe. It was the idea of Hassan — Hassan, 
who, if not her father, had always shown her a 
father's love, and to whom she therefore owed the 
duty and affection of a daughter, was the person 
on whom all her thoughts were now fixed. She 
thought of him, not as he had quitted her presence, 
full of hope that his journey would be crowned 
with success, and that the discovery of the abode of 
Elphenor, in restoring to him a friend, would also 
restore to her a father ; but she pictured to herself 



272 MELANTHE. 

Hassan betrayed — imprisoned, and perhaps groan- 
ing in misery, under the hidden tyranny of the 
Cardinal. 

From the moment when the repeated threat of a 
dungeon to any one who should befriend her, had 
suggested the idea of the detention of Hassan, her 
mind had known no rest ; and reflection had con- 
firmed the impression, until it seemed incompre- 
hensible that it should not sooner have occurred to 
her that his prolonged absence could not be caused 
by accidental circumstances. One by one, she now 
recollected a variety of apparently inadvertent 
expressions, made use of by Borgia when speaking 
of the journey of Hassan, which at least proved 
that the Cardinal was more fully informed of the 
movements of the traveller than appeared natural. 
At first, she had scarcely remarked this ; but, as 
the character of Borgia had gradually unfolded 
itself to her view, she had become aware of much 
that had formerly escaped, or been concealed from 
her observation. As the hope of gaining her 
affection had faded from" the mind of the Cardinal, 
so had he freed himself from the restraint which 



MELAXTHE. 273 

the semblance of virtue imposed upon him ; and he 
therefore unshrinkingly displayed to her eyes the 
villainy and unbridled profligacy more congenial to 
his nature. 

The idea which Melanthe had conceived of liis 
character, was sufficiently degrading, although 
ignorant of his excesses, or the depth of infamy 
into which his monstrous vices could sink him. 
Still she knew enough of his utter disregard of 
justice, or consequences, not to be aware, that, 
should it suit his purpose, the danger of an insult 
offered to a person so generally respected as 
Hassan was in Rome, would not be, in the eyes of 
Borgia, a circumstance of sufficient importance 
for consideration. 

So firmly had the impression taken possession of 
her mind, of his having exercised violence for the 
purpose of detaining Hassan from his home, that 
she resolved to lose no time in endeavouring to 
ascertain the justness of her suspicions. By a for- 
tunate coincidence of circumstances, the prisons of 
Rome were accessible to her ; and she forthwith 
determined to explore them, ere she carried her 
N 5 



S74 MELANTHE. 

researches further. Once assured that Hassan was 
not within their walls, she might depart from the 
city, could she contrive to do so unobserved ; and 
by making her way to some of the neighbouring 
towns, might find a refuge there, until she could 
discover where Montesecco was, and claim his 
protection. A sensation of relief entered the bosom 
of Melanthe, as she contemplated the possibility of 
escape from the spot polluted by the presence of 
her arch enemy the Cardinal ; yet the first step to- 
wards emancipation from her difficulties remained to 
be taken, for her generous heart refused to think only 
of herself, until assured that the safety of Hassan 
could in no way be affected by her departure. 

Could she once succeed in quitting Rome, she 
fancied that the rage of the Cardinal would sub- 
side ; and, with it, all danger of persecution of her 
friends. Filled with these thoughts, Melanthe, on 
leaving her home, took her way towards the Castle 
of Saint Angelo ; and having reached it without 
danger, turned down a narrow lane, in which was 
the residence of the gaoler. She soon found the 
house ; but the light was still so feeble, that, fearful 



MELANTHE. 275 

of alarming the inmates, she waited for a few 
minutes before demanding admission. 

The spot where she stood was familiar to her. It 
was not very long since she had visited it. Her 
errand had then been one of charity and kindness, 
of which Heaven had ordained she was now to reap 
the reward. Ramiro, the owner of the house, and 
principal gaoler of Saint Angelo, was brother to 
Stefano, the gardener of Hassan. Like the latter, 
he had had one daughter whom he cherished, but 
whose loss had left him comfortless upon the earth. 
It was by the death-bed of this only daughter that 
he had first seen and known Melanthe ; and touched 
by the tenderness which she manifested towards his 
dying child, and the generosity with which she 
ministered to her wants and the caprices of illness, 
Ramiro had sworn, with the fervour of an excitable 
disposition, so natural to those of his sunny land, 
that no service or aid should ever be required of 
him by Melanthe, whether for herself, or in behalf of 
those dear to her, that he would not willingly per- 
form, even were his life to become the sacrifice of 
his devotion. 



276 



MELANTHE. 



At the tim€ of making this promise, Melanthe, 
apparently to him, was prosperous and happy ; but 
never, in the brightest days of her prosperity, had 
the heart of Ramiro warmed towards her with 
feelings of gratitude and devotion so ardent, as at 
the moment when, weeping and trembling, she stood 
beneath his humble roof, and poured forth her 
sorrow to his wondering ear. 

Melanthe, in confiding to Ramiro the secret 
suspicion she entertained of the detention of Has- 
san, carefully abstained from mentioning the name 
of Borgia ; and with the true delicacy inseparable 
from good and gentle feeling, Ramiro not only 
forbore to inquire further into the mystery than she 
appeared willing to reveal, but also suppressed all 
avowal of the imminent danger to which he knew 
he must expose himself by granting her request, 
and introducing her, without authority from the 
Governor, within the precincts of the castle. Still 
lie did not hesitate. " What is it, thought he, if 
they do take my head for disobedience to their 
orders? Gratitude is an order from God. And 
she comforted my dying child — my poor Lucia. 



MELANTHE. 277 

Ah ! well, she is gone, and Ramiro is alone in the 
world ; and the Signora she loved, and who so 
often bade me be comforted, now conies to me for 
help. She shall have it, and the spirit of my sweet 
Lucia will smile upon me from heaven !" 

Thus reasoned poor Ramiro, as he thought of 
his much-loved daughter, and looked upon the 
angel face of Melanthe, which he had so often seen 
bending over the pillow of Lucia, while her lips 
murmured a prayer. The blessing of the father's 
heart was about to bring forth its fruit ; and with 
a feeling almost of pride, Ramiro contemplated the 
danger to which his devotion might expose him. 
It caused him, however, no little pain to see the 
conviction which seemed to have taken possession 
of the mind of Melanthe, that within the walls of 
the prison lay the object of her search ; for better 
informed, than she appeared to be, of the tyrannical 
power which so often consigned the innocent to 
his care, he knew how slender was their chance of 
deliverance. 

The person of Hassan being unknown to him, 
he could not, by her description, decide whether or 



278 MELAIJTHE. 

not he was an inmate of the dismal abode they were 
about to explore ; for the admittance of prisoners 
of importance was of such frequent occurrence, 
and conducted with so much secrecy, that there 
were many within the walls, whose faces were con- 
cealed from all but those who had special orders to 
visit them, being immured in dungeons, the doors 
of which were secured by keys in the possession of 
the Governor. Amongst these, it was possible that 
Hassan might be confined; but to the eager in- 
quiries of Melanthe, Ramiro could only answer, 
that, to the best of his belief, no prisoner had been 
committed to the secret dungeons within the time 
she stated to have elapsed since the disappearance 
of Hassan. Somewhat comforted by this assurance, 
Melanthe, still questioning Ramiro, followed his 
steps across the court, observing, with a shudder, 
that he carried in his hand a lighted lamp, although 
the sun had now risen in full splendour. The 
door closed behind them with a heavy swing, and 
Melanthe stood within the prison of the castle. 
Long and weary were the hours she spent in tra- 
versing its dungeons and its gloom ; and tears of 



MELANTHE. 279 

pity were scarcely dry upon her cheek as she passed 
from the cell of some unhappy wretch, who eagerly 
related the hardship of his case, imploring her 
intercession in his behalf, ere they gushed forth 
anew, as a tale still more deplorable met her ear, 
and the sense of powerless compassion struck her 
to the heart. 

Yet, as she moved on, she often longed again to 
hear those voices and those prayers, for more than 
once, as, chilled and shuddering, she threaded her 
way through the winding passages, and the damp 
and murky air with which the lower vaults were 
filled, the stare of idiotcy, and the shriek of the 
maniac, told that reason had perished under the 
dismal horror which the flesh could still resist. 
Sometimes, a groan was the only answer to the 
cheering word which Ramiro ventured to bestow ; 
but too often the silence with which this was 
received, made him shake his head, and froze the 
heart of Melanthe, for she felt in the presence of 
the dead. 

Many of the secret dungeons were below the 
level of the Tiber, and the only light which ever 



J^80 MELANTHE. 

entered there was from two narrow loop-holes above 
the door, which opened to the passage, but which 
door Ramiro assured her he never recollected to 
have seen unlocked. Heart rending as was this 
intelligence, as it concerned the fate of the wretched 
occupants of these loathsome graves of the living, 
Melanthe felt comforted at having convinced her- 
self that the abode of Hassan, at least, was not 
amongst them ; and with a silent prayer that heaven 
would look down in its mercy upon those whom the 
hardness of man against man had reduced to such 
misery, Melanthe quitted the lower dungeons; 
and, as she ascended the rugged steps which led 
back to the light of day, she inquired if she had 
now seen all that the castle contained ? 

" All," replied Ramiro, " except the southern 
tower ; or, as we call it now, the Greek tower/' 

" And why so ?*" asked Melanthe. 

*' Because all the prisoners are of that nation,'' 
was the reply. 

" My unhappy countrymen," said Melanthe, with 
a sigh ; " how long have they been confined here ?" 

" These many years," replied Ramiro. 



MELANTHE. 281 

" And their crime — what was it ?" continued 
Melanthe, interested for the fate of those who had 
belonged to her own land. 

" They conspired against the state, at least so 
it was said," added Rarairo, with a shrug of his 
shoulders ; '' but the Signora can see them. Here 
are the cells, and there are all the names they had 
adopted. His Holiness the Pope ordered them to 
be written up over each door, as,'"* he said, " if they 
happened to look out, they might find the consola- 
tion of philosophy. Such was the message that I 
heard delivered to them by the governor, the day 
they were admitted." 

The cruelty of this insult became instantly 
apparent to Melanthe; for the cells were placed 
back to back, so as to preclude the possibility of 
the prisoners having a view of each other ; and, as 
she moved along, she beheld, by the faint light 
which streamed from the high and grated windows, 
above the passage, that each cell bore the name of 
one of the ancient philosophers. 

" That was their chief," whispered Ramiro, as 
he pointed to one cell a little smaller than the 
rest, and over which Melanthe read the name of 



MELANTHE. 

" Socrates." " And because he was a great man 
in his own country, his Holiness said he should be 
the least here ; and so he was brought to the prison 
upon a mule, with his hands tied behind him, and 
his face towards the tail, like a felon. I remember 
it as if it was but yesterday." 

Melanthe paused before the little window of the 
cell, and gazed upon the unhappy prisoner whom 
misfortune could not shelter from savage indignity. 
He was an old man ; but, as he rose, and looked 
from the window, Melanthe could see that his noble 
form was still unbent ; and the calm reflective brow, 
round which fell a profusion of silver hair, which, 
mingling with his long beard, descended nearly to 
his waist, was still unfurrowed, and told more of 
patient suffering than was visible upon the counte- 
nance of the prisoners in general. 

Melanthe, struck by the classic beauty of his 
appearance, and deeply interested by the knowledge 
of his misfortunes, drew nearer still ; and a ray of 
hope lit up the old man'*s face, as the unusual 
appearance of a stranger and a woman attracted 
his attention. How often had that crushed heart 
breathed words of resignation, and meekly bowing 



MELANTHE. 

over the tomb of its last hope, awaited the release 
of the spirit, as the end of all its woes, and now it 
needed but the shadow of a passing form to bring 
back thoughts of liberty and life I — What was 
there in the veiled and shrouded figure before him, 
that made his limbs tremble and his heart beat ? 
He who had long since resigned himself to cap- 
tivity and death, what was there, that should move 
him, but that the form was woman's form ; and with 
that word, came thoughts of gentle tears, and pity, 
and release, for why should she seek to gaze upon his 
sorrow, if she had not come to save ? And the reso- 
lution of years gave way before that one moment of 
hope ; and even in that dark cell, the cheek of the 
miserable man reddened as he felt the weakness of 
humanphilosophy,when weighed against the strength 
of human affection ! So strong was the sudden 
emotion which the appearance of Melanthe had 
excited, that he trembled as he heard the words 
she addressed to him, inquiring the reason of his 
detention ? 

" Lady !" he replied, " for years have I asked 
the same question ; but in vain." 



284 MELANTHE. 

" How ?'■* said Melanthe. " You were not even 
made acquainted with the accusation against you ?" 

" Conspiracy was the word which sounded in 
my ears, as, hooted and insulted by the rabble, I, 
with my companions, was led hither. Conspiracy 
against the Pope, and destruction to the Roman 
State ; these were the watch words which have 
consigned us, a poor company of strangers and of 
scholars, to darkness and to chains !" 

" Scholars ?" said Melanthe, inquiringly; "Greek 
scholars ?" 

" Yes, Lady ! we were scholars, and we were 
Greeks. Driven from our happy land by the 
barbarous Turks, we fled hither for refuge. Lady, 
you who are happy — ^blest with kindred and with 
home — you cannot know the bitterness of the tears 
the outcast sheds, nor how heart leaps to heart 
when any of the same land meet in a foreign soil. 
Strangers no more ! they are brothers — they are 
friends. And we were friends — brothers ; yes, 
brothers — for we were Greek, and Greece was then 
no more. Our love and our learning was our all 
— and that we shared together ; and hidden from 



MEI.ANTHE. 285 

the world, we took the classic names of those whose 
deeds and words were evermore the theme of our 
discourse. The study of Philosophy was all our 
care ; but despotism, whose footstool is ignorance, 
grew jealous of our labours ; our meetings were 
pronounced seditious ; and without warning or 
trial did we learn that henceforth the dungeon was 
to be our home. Strangers, and helpless, we were 

torn from the light of day — years have gone by 

long — cruel years — and still we are here. Lady, 
you weep *" 

" I do,*' said Melanthe, " for your wrongs, and 
for my own. I, too, am Greek, and, like you, by 
all forgotten." 

" It cannot be,^ exclaimed the prisoner ; " and 
yet my heart foretold a coming joy. Forgive me. 
Lady — long years of misery have left me few 
words of courtesy ; but I thank you for your 
tears ; and when your steps have borne you hence, 
think of the old man's cell, which for a moment 
has been gladdened by the presence of one, with 
whom, as coming from the land he loved, he has 
dared to claim kindred.*" 



286 MELANTHE. 

The voice of the prisoner faltered, for the avowal 
of Melanthe that she belonged to his persecuted 
country, had destroyed the hope with which her 
presence had at first inspired him. 

" I have but little power,"" said Melanthe; 
" but I have the will to serve you — say, is there 
aught I may do ?"" 

" Nothing," replied the prisoner, sadly. 

" I have money — ^jewels ; I am rich," suggested 
Melanthe. 

" Alas ! it would be useless. The wealth of 
our scattered nation would not buy our freedom. 
Our gaolers are the only ones not venal — bigotry 

and ignorance But I thank you. Lady," 

added the unhappy prisoner, changing his tone 
from the despondency to which it had sunk, " I 
thank you ; and if, indeed, you would give a poor 
prisoner a moment's solace from his woes, I have 
a request that I would make to you ; — and yet I 
dare not." 

" Speak," said Melanthe, eagerly ; " I will 
gladly do all you may require." 

" Lady, it is a foolish fancy ; but I would fain 



MELANTHE. 287 

see the features of the only being who for years 
has spoken kindly to me. The light is dim — I 
cannot see your face."" 

Melanthe turned ; and taking up the lamp which, 
at her request, Ramiro had left at a distance during 
her conversation with the prisoner, she placed it on 
the ledge of the window, in order that its light 
might fall upon her features, and then threw back 
the hood and veil which she had hitherto worn. 
The light streamed upon her face, and the old 
man smiled with a melancholy expression as he 
looked upon her beauty ; but ere long the change 
which was apparent in the countenance of the 
prisoner was so alarming, that Melanthe could not 
for an instant withdraw her eyes from it. The 
little hue of life which long confinement had left 
upon his cheek faded away, while his large dark 
eyes seemed to dilate to an unnatural size, as he 
gazed upon the figure before him, and scanned 
every feature with an intensity unaccountable 
to her. 

Suddenly his eye caught the glitter of the 
jewelled cross, which Melanthe, imagining that 



288 MELANTHE. 

without some bribe of sufficient value she might 
not perhaps be able to effect her purpose of ex- 
ploring the prisons, had hung round her neck. 

Without speaking, the prisoner passed his hand 
through the bars of his cell, and brought the cross 
nearer to his view. 

" It was my mother's,'' said Melanihe, sadly- 

" Her name?'" asked the prisoner, in a hoarse 
voice; and his hand trembled, so that the cross fell 
from it. 

" Ida !*" replied Melanthe, hurriedly, for a 
thought suddenly struck her. 

" Melanthe — my child ! I felt it,'' cried the 
prisoner, as he fell senseless against the wall of his 
cell. 

" My father !"- said Melanthe, sinking on her 
knees before him. She was not deceived — it was 
Elphenor who had spoken ! 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

It was almost dark before the kind-hearted 
Ramiro returned that day to separate the father 
from the child ; and, as he entered the cell which 
contained them, his heart, while it swelled with the 
remembrance of his own bereavement, which the 
sight of their happiness called forth, blessed also 
the fortunate chance which had thus enabled him 
to discharge his debt of gratitude to Melanthe. 
The joy of Elphenor was the joy of one whose 
pent-up affections were at last p^mitted to over- 
flow ; and the emotion his countenance betrayed 
was strangely at variance with its usual stately 
calm. The sternness of the sage was gone — the 
father shone in its place. And Melanthe, — surely 
her sorrows were now ended ! — She had found her 
father, and she looked up in his face, while one 

VOL. II. o 



290 MELANTHE. 

bright smile chased another ; and her hand clasped 
that of Elphenor, as if never to relax its hold. 

Little remained for her to learn of his hard fate, 
beyond what the first words of the prisoner had 
taught her. For some years after his flight from 
Constantinople he had lived comparatively in 
obscurity, until the persecution which arose against 
all men of letters, had involved him in their 
common ruin ; and the Academy which they had 
founded, and of which he was the head, was 
denounced as a cover for seditious meetings, dan- 
gerous to the state, and its members condemned 
to perpetual imprisonment. 

At first, many efforts had been made, both by 
the prisoners themselves, and those interested for 
them, to obtain the remission of a sentence so 
unjust ; but the first attempts having failed, time 
passed on, and with it disappeared many of those, 
whose zeal in the cause of the unhappy Greeks 
might have proved of service to them. Other 
circumstances and interests then arose, until the 
fate of the prisoners, and even their existence, 
ceased to be remembered in Rome. 

With tearful eyes Melanthe listened to this sad 



MEL AN THE, 291 

history ; but Elphenor, wild with the joy that 
glowed in his bosom, forbore to dwell unnecessarily 
upon the sorrows of his past life, though eagerly 
demanding from his daughter a full recital of every 
circumstance relatino^ to her own. With what 
fervour did the now happy father call down bless- 
ings upon the head of Hassan, the preserver of his 
child ; but sadly he listened to the account of poor 
Gennaro — the child of Demetrius and the beautiful 
Chezme. How did the heart of Elphenor long for 
the presence of the two persons, whose existence 
seemed to connect his own with the past — Hassan and 
Gennaro — the friends — the protectors of his daugh- 
ter ; and again and again did he make Melanthe 
repeat everything which she had already told him, 
as though he could scarcely believe that all w^as 
not illusion. And Melanthe, in her turn, would 
question him, and weep as he spake of Ida, the 
mother whose memory she revered, and whose 
dreadful fate she now first learned. 

Thus in smiles and in tears, in present rapture, 
and in remembrance of past grief, the father and 
daughter spent the first day of their re-union ; and 
when the voice of Ramiro awakened them from 



292 MELANTHE. 

their trance of delight, they started, as they remem- 
bered that as yet no plan for attempting the release 
of Elphenor had been determined between them. 
Various suggestions were now hastily offered ; but 
to all some objection appeared, until at length 
Ramiro, who had not hitherto taken any part in 
the discussion, interposed. 

" It is of no use,'' he said ; " a petition to the 
Pope will do nothing. Hundreds have gone from 
hence— I myself have borne them — laid them at 
the feet of his Holiness, and all in vain — no answer 
ever was returned ! " 

" Then what shall we do ? Good Ramiro, 
counsel us," exclaimed Melanthe, who in her joy 
had overlooked this difficulty. 

" I know not how to advise," replied Ramiro ; 
" but this I do know, that there is but one man in 
Rome, who can persuade the Pope to anything." 

" And who is he ? " inquired Elphenor ; 
" though inded so many years have passed since I 
have heard a name, I scarce could know the man 
of whom you speak." 

" I speak of one, of whom all men speak," an- 
swered Ramiro ; " and I say as they do, that the 



MELANTHE. 293 

Pope may be head of the Church, but that the 
Cardinal Borgia is head of Rome. Without him, 
nothing is done ; and did his Holiness command 
the prison doors to open, one word from the Car- 
dinal would close them, and for ever." 

" We must gain him to our side," said Elphenor. 
*' Surely he is just — he will listen to our prayer. 

Melanthe, thou wilt seek this good man but 

what ails thee, my child ?" he added, in a voice of 
alarm, as he marked the sudden change that came 
over the countenance of his daughter. 

" Nothing, father," said Melanthe, faintly. 

" My child !" exclaimed Elphenor, catching her 
in his arms ; " she is faint — see how she trembles." 

'' No, it is past now," said Melanthe, struggling 
to appear calm, though the deadly terror of the 
view which had thus suddenly opened to her, had 
almost deprived her of her senses. " It is nothing ; 

but after so much joy, this difficulty " She 

paused, and Elphenor rejoined, 

" We must not look upon it as such. To know 
that there is a person who can save us, is much. 
Doubtless, this Holy man will be our friend — his 



294 MELANTHE. 

calling is of justice and mercy. My child, thou 
wilt seek him." 

" Father, oh ! no !"" exclaimed Melanthe, invo- 
luntarily. 

" How ? you refuse ?"" said Elphenor, in asto- 
nishment ; " Melanthe !" 

" No, no," interrupted Melanthe ; " I meant 
not what I said ; but is there no other way ?"" 

" None so nearly certain of success," interposed 
Ramiro. " Take my advice," he continued, as he 
turned to Elphenor, " persuade the Signora to go 
herself; petitions are of no use; the Pope never 
sees them : and besides," he added, as a recollec- 
tion of the gross infringement of prison discipline 
of which he had been guilty in admitting Melanthe, 
came to him, " if things are not properly repre- 
sented, we may all get into trouble ; and the 
Signora, with her soft words, will explain it all 
much better than a long piece of writing could do. 
So she had better go at once, before it gets to the 
ear of his Eminence in any other way." 

" Every word of the honest and well-intentioned 

amiro, struck deeply into the heart of Melanthe ; 



MELAXTHE. 295 

and she shuddered as she contemplated the alter- 
native to which she was thus cruelly reduced. 

" You hear his words,"" said Elphenor, when 
Ramiro had ceased speaking. " My child, will 
you not help me ?'' 

The touching distress with which this was uttered, 
overcame the unhappy girl ; and she threw herself 
sobbing upon the bosom of her father, who, ima- 
gining that the fear of failure was the cause of her 
agitation, endeavoured by the most soothing argu- 
ments, in which he constantly dwelt upon the good 
qualities with which his fancy had invested Borgia, 
to comfort and re-assure her — until, writhing be- 
neath his words, she distractedly exclaimed, 

" Father, dear father ! I will go to the Cardinal !" 
and tearing herself from the arms of Elphenor, 
quitted the prison. 



END OF VOLUME II. 



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